The pandemic has pushed the American workforce out of the office and into homes, which for many individuals can cause health problems. When your office is now your living room, it may be hard to disconnect from the demands of your job.
According to Ladders, employers may also be taking advantage of that situation and expect their employees to be on call 24/7. While working from home used to be a coveted privilege, surveys have found that nearly 50% of workers say they are unhappy with the balance of their lives.
A recent study found that working more than 39 hours per week can do us more harm, mentally and physically, than good. An Australian study published in the Journal of Social Science found that working long hours “erodes a person’s mental and physical health because it leaves less time to eat and look after themselves properly,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Huong Dinh, according to Ladders.
In 2019, a survey showed that 43% of employees admitted to checking their work email when they were not in the office. As COVID-19 forced workers into their homes, that trend has been exacerbated, say experts.
Some European countries have proposed new laws to regulate remote work and protect employee time. According to a recent Associated Press article, European Union legislators voted in favor of a “right to disconnect” from the internet and email for the estimated one-third of people working from home because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, and we must update our rules to catch up with the new reality,” said Alex Agius Saliba, a Maltese lawmaker who headed the research on the innovative resolution. Saliba said that “after months of teleworking, many workers are now suffering from negative side effects such as isolation, fatigue, depression, burnout, muscular or eye illnesses.”
He added that “the pressure to always be reachable, always available, is mounting.” The result is unpaid overtime and burnout, according to AP.
A recent IBM study found that 80% of managers said they were supportive of the mental and physical health their workers, according to Ladders. However, only 46% of employees expressed that they felt supported by management.
While European legislatures are trying to correct the imbalance of too much work and too little personal time, Americans may have to play their own hand in avoiding the pitfalls of work-related stress and its health hazards.
Researchers report that COVID-19 has literally caused an increase in back and neck pain in people working from home. Experts say that the uptick is due a combination of poor posture, stress, and lack of physical activity, according to CNBC.
Americans working from home during COVID-19 have forgone their normal routine of commuting to the office, taking that lunch hour walk or going to the gym, so they are less active, resulting in musculoskeletal stress.
Experts at Workawesome.com, say setting limits is essential to avoid illness and burnout.
“It’s too easy to get involved in your work stuff after office hours, because your work is in your home,” they point out. “You have to set time limits when you work at home and set clear boundaries—with yourself and with your family.”
To do this, stop working when the office time ends to allow your batteries to recharge so that you can be more productive the next day.
“Respect your free time, so you get more done at work.”
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