Canadian Underwriter

You’re probably working too much while at home

June 25, 2020   by Adam Malik

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Employees are working longer and harder in a COVID-19 world than they did before, and it’s raising concerns about burnout — especially when many aren’t making vacation plans, according to a number of recent studies.

A recent survey showed that more than 50% of respondents who are working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic are experiencing burnout, Job site Monster reported this week. Furthermore, 52% of respondents said they have no plans to take time off.

The company’s most recent State of the Candidate survey showed a third of respondents believe their job has a negative impact on their mental health. A heavy workload is the top reason why, followed by not making enough money to cover bills/debts, and having toxic bosses or co-workers.

Canadian workers are spending two hours more working per day — an increase of almost 25% — after the pandemic was announced compared to before, virtual private network provider NordVPN Teams reported. Canadians worked on average 8.5 hours a day before Mar. 11, the day the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic. Now they work an average of 10.5 hours per day.

American and U.K. employees are the only other countries working as many hours, the study reported. Most people start work earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, vacation appears to be an afterthought for many employees, according to a study by staffing and HR company Robert Half Canada. Ten percent said they won’t be taking time off because of heavy workloads, and 5% said they’ve been discouraged from taking any time off. And while 28% said their company has encouraged them to take time off, 67% said they haven’t received communication about using their vacation days.

“Companies are operating in overdrive these days, often trying to navigate shifting business demands with leaner teams, which can mean heavier workloads and longer days for their staff,” said David King, Robert Half’s Canadian senior district president. “While summer vacations may look a little different right now, it’s more important than ever for workers to take time for themselves.

“A simple change of pace with the chance to disconnect can make all the difference in helping professionals avoid burnout, and return to work recharged, better focused and more engaged.”

For those who will — or hope to — be taking time off, just 8% told Robert Half that they’ll be taking more time off this summer while 30% said they’ll be taking less compared to last year. About a quarter (27%) are hoping travel restrictions ease as the year goes and hope to use vacation time late in the year. The pandemic has forced belt-tightening for 20% of Canadian workers who would like to take a vacation. Nearly three in 10 said they will be taking time off for mental health and self-care reasons.

The Conference Board of Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada explored the impact of COVID-19 and mental health. It released its finding this week and found 84% of the 1,800 Canadians surveyed said their mental health has worsened since the pandemic started.

“For many, the pandemic has brought heightened concern in regard to careers, families, finances, and health,” King said. “With this added pressure on workers, employers need to encourage staff to make vacations, and their wellbeing, a priority. Managers should set the example by taking advantage of their own time off, and empower employees with more flexible deadlines and additional support while people are away so that everyone is able to truly relax and unplug on their days off.”

The Conference Board of Canada recommended the following five plans for employers to help employees with rising mental health concerns:

  • Focus on providing meaningful work, supporting the whole employee (family, work, and social lives), and adopt proven mental health assessment tools.
  • Understand the role of the workplace in building overall mental health.
  • Explore the strategies employees are using to cope, and knowing the pros and cons of these strategies to encourage healthier choices.
  • Promote the use of psychological services and employee assistance programs — and define success criteria and metrics.
  • Social connections matter. Employers need to help reduce stigma, isolation, and loneliness — especially with more people working remotely than ever.


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