Are employees working harder than this time last year?

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

After a turbulent 2020, employees are now settled into the new way of working and are more productive. Many workers have now solved their Wi-Fi issues, found the right collaboration tools, and learned how to achieve a work-life balance when their home is their workspace.

With home working here to stay, many managers may be wondering how the shift to remote working has impacted worker productivity in the long-term. Are workers thriving in their new flexible working arrangement, or are they itching to get back into the office to boost their productivity?

Worker productivity in 2021

According to Hubspot, about 40% of workers say they have the same level of productivity this year as they did in 2020. Further, a quarter of employees say they are actually more productive than they were last year. These figures are promising and show that workers have adjusted to their new remote working arrangement.

However, 14% say they are much less productive and 10% say they are slightly less productive. This decrease in productivity could be attributed to various factors, including unrealistic expectations to perform at pre-pandemic levels, varying work preferences, and a lack of infrastructure to be fully productive at home. In fact, about a quarter of workers say having a physical workplace makes them feel more productive than when working from home.

Burnout remains a challenge

Despite this good news that the pandemic has not severely impacted productivity, burnout remains a major challenge. Research conducted during the pandemic showed that people who were working from home were spending more hours at their desks and facing a bigger workload than before the pandemic.

It showed the average employee in the United Kingdom, Austria, Canada, and the United States was spending two extra hours per day on their computer, according to data from NordVPN Teams. The average United Kingdom worker increased their workday by 25%, regularly logging off at 8pm or later each night. It also showed that workers took shorter lunch breaks while working remotely.

Overworking is unsustainable and can lead to burnout, fatigue, and poor physical and mental health. When burnout happens, people feel drained, unable to cope, and tired, and as a result, their productivity drops.

Employers can encourage productivity while reducing the risk of burnout by keeping communication and work expectations within set hours. This way, workers can create a barrier between their working day and personal time.

A 2020 study by Harvard University found the break between work shifts directly improves subsequent concentration and focus on employees at work. As a result of the pandemic, many countries have proposed and adopted a ‘Right to Disconnect’ law, which gives workers the legal right to disconnect from work and not engage in work-related communications, such as answering emails or phone calls, during non-work hours.

While the European Union has adopted this rule, the United Kingdom is yet to adopt such a law. But businesses can proactively encourage this idea by creating a culture where workers are not expected to be available outside their work hours.