Those lucky enough to still have a job during the pandemic are working longer days, a new study suggests.
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With many offices still operating remotely as a result of upticks in COVID-19 cases, the average workday has dragged on 48.5 minutes longer, according to a study from researchers at Harvard Business School and New York University published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The study analyzed employee behavior of 3.1 million people in more than 21,000 companies in 16 cities in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East eight weeks before the coronavirus pandemic-fueled lockdowns and eight weeks after. Researchers analyzed data from meetings and emails and found that the number of meetings people were joining surged around 13 percent, though the ample meetings were shorter, the study found. Workers were also firing off 1.4 more emails each day to co-workers.
Career coaches say employees working during the pandemic believe they need to perform even more since commute times are cut out, leading more workers to log on earlier than pre-COVID-19 days. And with more than 40 million Americans filing for unemployment, workers still getting paychecks feel the need to prove their worth tenfold, New York City-based career coach Roy Cohen says.
“Every one of my clients is complaining that they’re working harder – the fact is a lot of people are working through the time they would be commuting or they feel like they need to be more accountable because they’re home,” Cohen said adding: “They’re feeling that they’ve got to show they’re working harder to offset this belief that they’re not engaged because they’re working off-site. There’s an element of guilt.”
Separate research suggests that the average workday for Americans specifically went from eight hours to 11 hours per day – a 40 percent increase and the biggest spike compared to any other nation, according to data from digital privacy company NordVPN. And Cohen says that could be the new normal with remote work continuing, but advises workers to carve out time to integrate work and self-care.
“Schedule in some self-care. Combine work with an activity that is yours where you’re getting exercise or you’re cooking something and you’re doing something for yourself so you can bridge work and be engaged in an activity that’s healthy for you,” Cohen says.
Indeed, employees who don’t take time to reset could end up costing their companies money in lost productivity. That can add up to between $125 billion and $190 billion a year in health care costs brought on from work-fueled stress, which comprises 8 percent of national spending on health care, according to previous research from the Harvard Business Review.