Remote employees finding it harder to disconnect, survey finds

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New research from insurance provider Laya Healthcare suggests that employees working from home in Ireland have put in 300m hours of overtime since the start of the pandemic. The company carried out more than 1,000 interviews with employees and HR leaders earlier this year. It found that there is growing concern around workforce burnout and frequent stress.

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Almost two-thirds of participants said they feel pressure to stay connected after normal working hours, resulting in an average of 22 hours of overtime each month over the past year. This amounts to €7bn, according to Laya. A previous Covid-19 study carried out by the company found that many employees in Ireland weren’t taking enough annual and sick leave, which has potentially contributed to higher stress levels.

Laya Healthcare’s head of health and wellbeing, Sinéad Proos, said that the findings present “worrying signs of deteriorating morale among employees”. The main contributors are less social interaction with colleagues, difficulty self-motivating and having to be ‘always on’, she said.

“Our latest barometer shows that employee motivation and maintaining organisational culture are becoming more notable issues compared to six months ago, with a greater number of employees now citing the loss of workplace bonding as their top challenge of working from home,” said Proos.

“There is an overwhelming feeling of being stuck in stasis. Some say the hopeful start to 2021 has failed to materialise, while almost half of workers feel stuck in their current employment, wanting to change jobs but held back because of a lack of opportunities.

“Employers also indicated that effective communication is a challenge, and this has a real knock-on effect; if workers aren’t feeling communicated to and supported, this can lend itself to the feeling of stagnation.”

Managing mental health is key

Employers have a responsibility to support their staff through these issues, Laya Healthcare said, adding that emphasis should be placed on managing mental health, the impact of Covid-19 vaccinations and future work arrangements.

In the survey, 69pc of organisations said the biggest challenge of working from home is mental health, and many said they would like to make mental health services more accessible in the workplace.

Proos added: “It is great to see that strides are being taken by organisations to address mental health supports, with three in four employers now offering health and wellbeing services to their workers. We encourage employers to take an inward look at the effectiveness of their health and wellbeing strategies. When we did the research last year, 61pc said their strategies were effective. It has now dropped to 53pc.

“Along with mental health management, organisations need to manage expectations around the vaccinations, sick leave and the future of work post-pandemic. Over seven in 10 employees (74pc) believe the workforce should be vaccinated before returning to work and an encouraging 79pc said they would get it if available.

“It is critical employers support workers by communicating the facts around vaccinations, directing them to trusted sources of updated information.”

Laya Healthcare infographic with statistics about remote workers finding it hard to disconnect during the pandemic.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Laya Healthcare

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