For those of us working from home over the last year, there’s been no end to the new challenges we’ve had to face. Some of them – like background noise or poor connectivity – can be overcome relatively quickly. Others, like Zoom Fatigue or the strains on our mental health, take more time and effort from both employers and employees. According to a recent report by Asana, burnout rose by 71 percent in 2020, as people had to deal with new ways of working.
In our ‘Own your Time’ survey, we asked 1,000 people working remotely in the United States about their experiences working from home. Here are some of the findings:
No Meeting Days and Focus Time are Important
Although it comes with many benefits, working remotely also creates new problems – many of them employees haven’t had to deal with before. An increase in the number of meeting invites and a sense of obligation to attend is just one of them. This in turn has led to many companies reporting an increase in employees experiencing burnout.
Zoom Fatigue grew exponentially in 2020 thanks to COVID and the need for remote working. Clinical Behavior Analyst, Laura Dudley, explains that the condition comes from an “over-taxing” of our brains – having to make up for non-verbal cues we normally rely on when talking to someone face-to-face.
Many companies are now taking action to address burnout and find new ways to ensure employees are happy and healthy.
In our survey, 58 percent of people said their company had declared a no meeting day – where no internal or external meetings were to be scheduled. Just over half of these (55 percent) happened every week, while around 30 percent took place monthly.
No Meeting Days might not be the silver bullet to solving burnout and meeting fatigue, but there is good evidence to show they do help.
On average, it takes 23 minutes to get back into ‘the zone’ when you’re interrupted. If you have just two meetings in a day (and we all know that often it’s at least double that) that’s over 45 minutes lost just trying to get productivity levels back on track.
Facebook and Asana have a policy of no meetings Wednesdays and argue it has helped staff to focus on demanding projects knowing they wouldn’t be interrupted. At Doodle, we’re also conscious about how we can ensure our teams are maximizing their time and not getting burned out with loads of unnecessary meetings. We constantly review how many meetings our employees have and whether they’re needed.
When it comes to focusing, our survey found that when people work remotely, they are much more conscious about booking time in their calendars to do so. Over 80 percent of our respondents said they did.
Almost half (52 percent) of the interviewees said they had booked at least one hour to focus on work – 65 percent of them did this every day. Even though a third of people expected to be interrupted during their focus time – over 80 percent of people said they got more work done.
Although it’s not necessarily something we would have talked about when working from an office, focus time and more importantly the act of booking it, is crucial when working from home.
Unlike the old days when you went to work, sat at your desk and got on with things, at home you’re surrounded by distractions. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and spend the day doing the laundry or playing games with the kids when a structured office environment is not telling your brain it’s time to work.
Of course, there are ways to try and focus, such as a dedicated workspace or staying off social media, as well as using the right tools to maximize your time. If you’re in sales that could be using a CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot. Or say you’re a busy recruiter and have to interview numerous candidates throughout the day. Doodle’s Bookable Calendar will let you streamline that process, free up space and book out the time you need to do other things.
When it comes to avoiding burnout at home, breaks are key. Our survey found that 72 percent of people report feeling refreshed and less burned out after taking a break.
When asked how long they take for their break, the majority of people (38 percent) book 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes (33 percent) and 45 minutes (15 percent). Only 13 percent of people book an hour off for a break each day.
It can often be the case when people work from home, they feel like they need to work constantly so bosses don’t think they’re wasting time. However, psychologists have stressed that regular breaks are important for both physical and mental health – not to mention they can make you more productive.
At Doodle, we encourage employees to work in ways they find productive. If that means taking an hour or two in the middle of the day to go for a run and reset their focus, for instance, we’re happy with that. We also offer access to things like Headspace and encouraged our teams to use it in ways that help them relax. We work as one big team and want everyone to be open and talk about any concerns they have – including if they feel overworked or burned out.
More Meetings mean Longer Workdays
It’s probably unsurprising to most, but since the pandemic began our survey found that nearly 70 percent of respondents reported an increase in meetings – with nearly 80 percent of these new meetings being internal. This increase is seen as one of the reasons for the increase in employees reporting burn out.
When asked about these new meetings, a whopping 74 percent of respondents said they ‘felt obligated’ to attend even if they had no time. For a lot of people, this meant extending their day to get work done.
The rise in internal meetings in a way is understandable. Unable to drop by someone’s desk to ask them a quick question, means scheduling a catch-up becomes a necessity. However, nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) said they found it difficult to balance these internal meetings with client-facing, external ones.
Although these figures make remote working sound cumbersome and demanding, a lot of people have said they don’t want to go back to a completely office-based role when the COVID pandemic is over. Research by technology company, Barco, found that 85 percent of people want a combination of working from home and in an office environment. This ‘hybrid’ way of working could be a way to cure some of the new problems created by remote working. For instance, if team meetings were to be held on office days then home working could be used to focus on individual tasks. This is turn could reduce the number of meetings people have, help to reduce things like Zoom Fatigue and hopefully lead to less employee burnout.
In our recent State of Meetings Report, we explored some of the ways meetings might look in the future. You can read it in full here.