If the past 12 months have shown us anything, as we have juggled working from home throughout a pandemic, is that for many of us our work-life balance is all wrong.
Recent studies across Europe on living, and working during Covid-19 are providing insight into what it has meant to work throughout a global pandemic, what impact this has had on employees across Europe, and how there is still a lot to be done to address a work-life balance that is unbalanced and causing tremendous stress across all age groups.
Throughout 2020 almost half of workers across Europe worked at home at least some of the time. Up to ⅓ of these worked solely at home. For many this shift to remote work had its advantages, but many have struggled with this new way of working.
What are the major challenges facing those of us working during a pandemic?
Remote work, and working from home, makes it harder for employees to switch off. When your office is at home, it is not easy to leave your job behind at the end of the day. Even less so in the digital world we live in. Building a line between work and home is that much harder when work is always at home. There is no off. Studies show that over 80% of us are checking our work emails during the weekends, and over 50% are checking them during our holidays. Pre-pandemic we already had a work-life balance problem. A recently published internal report from 13 Junior Goldman Sachs Analysts reports average work weeks of over 100 hours, and plummeting physical and mental health scores after they joined the investment bank.
Over 47% of respondents to the survey on working in Europe during Covid-19 reported that their employer had not taken steps to ensure they could work successfully at home. This includes not providing the right equipment, or leaving them to make do.
Employees are working harder than ever before, but facing greater job uncertainty than ever before. No matter how hard you work, there is no escape from the fear of losing your job. Across Europe, the average unemployment for those working for an employer reached 8%, and 13% for those self-employed. The young, those aged 18-34, made themselves most isolated during the pandemic.
A combination of working from home, the closure of social events, and community spaces, have left the young, who are also more likely to live alone, facing higher rates of social isolation and loneliness. For many, working from home, is, in normal times, balanced out by community and social networks. During the pandemic those networks have disappeared, leaving many isolated for long periods of time. The young, those aged 18-34, have also faced higher rates of unemployment than any other age group.
Women have been hardest hit as employees this year. They have been more likely to have shouldered the burden of child care during the pandemic, and have had to juggle school closures, while working from home. They have also been more likely to have had their working hours cut, or to have been made unemployed.
What is the impact of us working too hard?
The mental and physical impact of working too much is well researched, and well documented. Workplace stress, and excessive over time, but all workers at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, stress and stress-related illnesses, decreased sleep quality, anxiety and depression. Overworked employees are also more at risk of abusing alcohol and other substances.
Work related stress is currently estimated to cost Britain 10.4 million working days per year, and is having a very real impact on our productivity, alongside our long term health.
What is the solution?
We need to work less, and reclaim our work free time. This is easier said than done, and especially when so many of us are working from home for the near future, and possibly even permanently.
A call for four day work weeks, recently trialed in Sweden and New Zealand, may be just a pipe dream for many of us right now, but there are things we can all do to actively improve our working lives, and reduce work related stress as we continue to push for change from the top.
Learn to switch off. If this means hiding your phone, and laptop, to stop you checking emails in your downtime, so do it. If possible, have one device for work, and one for personal, so the work one can be hidden away at the end of your working day.
Focus on tasks not hours. Improving our own efficiency and productivity, especially when working from home, can go a long way in cutting down our working hours and filtering out the unnecessary.
De-stress. Reclaim your own time, and make the most of it. Whether it’s reconnecting with friends or family, spending time finishing a book, or enjoying a hobby, do what you love as much as you can, when you can. Healthy self-care is important, make sure to practice it.
Work daily exercise into your schedule. Whether it’s 15 minutes practicing yoga in the morning before work, or a run around the park, or even an hour in the gym- exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress and switch off.
At Vonder, our evolved approach to co-living combines living, working, and community in one urban space. We believe that working from home can be a positive experience, when it is done right. Prioritizing experiences, and people, is most important.