People have been working from home even before the pandemic, but their number significantly increased when the health crisis led to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Companies were forced to send their employees home to work remotely to comply with social distancing measures and keep the workforce healthy. Statista shows that before the pandemic, only 17% of US employees worked remotely for five days or more weekly. However, the number grew to 44% during the outbreak in 2020.
When the pandemic subsided and governments eased travel restrictions, some companies asked their workforce to return to the office while others offered the hybrid set-up. However, most employees still prefer remote work.
A poll conducted by Pew Research Center with 5,889 workers in America in January 2022 found that 61% of those who work from home said they avoid going to work by choice and 38% claim their office is closed. It represents a shift from October 2020, when 64% of people worked from home because their office was closed and 36% did so voluntarily.
In spite of that, 50% of leaders in information worker roles want to pursue getting employees back to the office full-time next year, based on Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022 report. Still, 52% of respondents say they highly consider becoming remote or hybrid in the year ahead and 80% claim that since remote or hybrid work arrangements were implemented, their productivity has increased.
How Remote Workers Can Be More Productive
According to the popular job site Flexjobs, one of the benefits of working from home is it increases “productivity and performance” as employees encounter fewer interruptions, have a quieter work environment, and have increased workplace comfort, resulting in more focused time.
In a research conducted in Latin America, they explored the relationship between remote work, work stress, and work-life during pandemic times. Researchers found out that by having flexible work schedules, the employees’ engagement and productivity levels increased because they could work at their most productive time. Privacy also plays a big role in employees’ efficiency. However, the productivity level is negatively affected when the worker is constantly interrupted by children or adults that need assistance.
A case study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine investigated the impact of family-work conflict, social isolation, distracting environment, job autonomy, and self-leadership on employees’ productiveness, work engagement, and stress experienced when working from home during the pandemic. The authors discovered that excellent self-leadership skills and autonomy positively impact the time assessment in a WFH scenario.
Results from a qualitative study by Danielle Tinneveld of Radboud University also show that productivity tracking facilitates the identification of process bottlenecks. The affected staff gets less anxious and annoyed when these difficulties are resolved, and overall production efficiency improves.
How Employees Can Track Their Productivity at Home
On a remote workday, people have to manage work and non-work-related tasks. To be productive, they have to master the art of time planning. Effective time management involves planning each activity in a time frame, considering priorities such as urgent work tasks and eating breaks. Individuals should fit their activities into 16 hours to get 8 hours of sleep each day to achieve great productivity. By monitoring the duration of their tasks, they can observe which actions can be improved.
To see if their time management strategy is effective, remote workers can use key performance indicators (KPIs). Some KPIs they can consider are:
- % To do list tasks achieved as planned
- % Time spent working
- % Time spent walking
- % Time spent relaxing
- % Time spent reading (non-work)
- % Time spent preparing food
- % Time spent eating
- % Time spent doing housework
By monitoring the percentage of tasks performed as planned, individuals can see if they reached their target or not. By knowing the percentage of time spent working, people have insights into the free time left for non-work-related tasks, such as going on a walk, relaxing, cooking, eating, and other housework activities (washing clothes and dishes, drying clothes, cleaning floors).
It’s a different story for employees whose companies have return-to-office schemes. Their organizations should rethink their performance management system to consider the new ways of working that employees gained during the pandemic. Evaluating the relevance of KPIs has become important now more than ever. To better understand KPIs, its nature, characteristics, and implementation, enroll now to The KPI Institute’s Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner course.
With the pandemic still affecting many parts of the world, work and school continue to be conducted predominantly from home. A 2020 report showed that 56% of employees worldwide began to work remotely as physical offices shut down due to COVID-19. Even though companies are gradually opening their offices in 2021, the hybrid way of working will most likely remain as the world transitions towards a post-pandemic era.
However, a dedicated home office is a luxury not everyone can have, especially those accustomed to conventional ways of working. The lack of space for a comfortable separate work area can be a hassle, especially when sharing and managing the area with other family members. There is also the disturbance from the surrounding area that can interfere with one’s ability to focus on any task.
Reimagining the bedroom for work
This condition drives employees to be creative with the choice of workspace to maintain performance. According to a 2021 report, 24% of American employees surveyed chose to work outdoors, while 21% preferred to work in the closet. One more popular solution is to set up a workspace in the bedroom to gain more privacy and have fewer distractions from other areas that have more activity in terms of regular household chores. Despite the benefits, working from the bedroom–especially in bed–has several side effects.
The internal concept of the bedroom as a place to rest may lead you to become unproductive as the distinction between work and personal time becomes blurred. When working from the bed, you might find difficulty in falling asleep because your brain gradually associates it with a place of work. In addition, the constant radiation of blue light from computer screens and other electronic devices will also disrupt one’s sleep duration, cycle, and overall quality of sleep.
With all these facts, you might be wondering if working from the bedroom may not be such a good choice after all. In reality, it can still be a viable choice if certain adjustments are made. Below are some tips on how you can effectively set and organize your bedroom workspace.
- Separate the work and sleep area
Maintaining a clear boundary between your focus and relaxation zones is crucial for you to productively work from your bedroom. To do so, consider using a room divider. Among the many options are curtains, wood-slatted partitions, upholstered screens, frosted glass walls, and pegboards. If you are tight on budget and wish to repurpose some of the furniture you already have, consider optimizing your bookshelf or a drawer as a divider.
Using curtains is also a good idea for a small and medium-sized room to install on the ceiling or walls. After you finish work for the day, close the curtain to mark the day as complete. After which, you can enjoy unwinding in your relaxation area without getting distracted by the sight of your workspace.
When setting up the desk, make sure to place it away from the bed. You can place it either on the opposite end of the room or facing it away from the bed. This will help you to stay focused and productive instead of wanting to lay down on the cozy mattress every 5 minutes. You may also opt for a folding desk that you can easily close after work.
- Pay attention to the ergonomics of your workspace
Having a dedicated space to work at home is a privilege not everyone can afford. Oftentimes, working from the bed is the only option available as you only need a desk tray you can fold away easily and not a full desk to support your laptop. The problem with working from the bed is that it is not good for your physical and psychological health.
It is very important to change your posture from time to time and support various parts of your body, which sitting on the bed cannot provide. Therefore, make sure to sit on an upright chair as much as possible while you are working. Investing in an ergonomic chair would be a great idea. Otherwise, you can repurpose a dining chair by adding a pillow or a cushion to help you feel comfortable sitting on it for a long duration.
Preventing neck and back pain while working can be done in several ways. If you are using a computer with a separated screen and keyboard, try to place the screen at eye level or higher than the keyboard. This adjustment will reduce the tension around your neck and back area and help sustain a good posture.
- Set the ambiance with lighting to boost productivity
Ideally, you are encouraged to set up your workspace in close proximity to a window. Having a naturally, well-lit workspace is preferable because it can improve performance by providing necessary lighting for your visual tasks. Several studies also indicate that people who work in an environment with natural light and open windows experienced an increase in attention and alertness.
Nevertheless, it might be a hassle for people living in a dense area where houses are practically pressed against each other, allowing little to no natural light inside. An example would be living in a condominium in the middle of a bustling and polluted city which disables people from having their windows open. In addition, taller buildings may also potentially be blocking sunlight to seep into the room. Therefore, how to make sure you still receive adequate lighting?
The alternative is to use a desk lamp with adjustable lighting so you can control the light according to your preferences and needs. A LED lamp can be a good option since it allows more light to be focused on actual working areas and direct it towards the area where it is most required. There are also available options that allow you to control the color and intensity of a LED lamp via Bluetooth on your phone.
- Make sure your desk is clutter-free
Research has shown that the resulting turmoil from a cluttered and untidy environment can interfere with our ability to concentrate. Your brain’s ability to digest information can also be limited if there is clutter as it can disrupt your attention span. Hence, it is important to keep your workspace clean and organized to be more productive and retain your focus on your tasks.
One alternative to free up space on your desk is to maximize your walls by setting up vertical shelves. Here, you can store work-related books and paper holders for when you need to check them out. Decorating your shelves with pictures, small table plants, or awards you have received would be a great option, too.
Consider using storage spaces such as containers with compartments to organize stationery, writing materials, and other necessary items accordingly so it will be easy to store and find items you need for work. Documents can be stored in a filing tray, magazine holder, or a similar type of filing organizer; each section can be creatively marked using different colors of files and labels. Immediately declutter broken items and those you no longer need to free some space; that way, you will not get stressed out from keeping the excess of junk in your room.
- Decorate your workspace
Add a touch of your personality to your work area. Putting up some wall art and ornaments will help enhance the aesthetic of your space. Mix and match colors and objects that represent you as a person to make the environment more vibrant. This way, you can both hone your creativity and feel more inspired while working from your bedroom.
Experiment with different patterns in your decor. Pick a few of your favorite prints and textures and mix them together to complement your furniture, curtain, and walls. Usually, it is suggested that these patterns should stay within the same color palette for a harmonious look. Nevertheless, exploring your taste and creativity is highly recommended.
To spark a calming atmosphere, consider adding indoor plants to your workspace set up. Be it a potted plant on the desk or a hanging one on the wall, feel free to adjust according to the availability of your space. If you are worried about not being able to take care of a plant, artificial greenery might be the best choice.
In conclusion, the key to creating an effective work environment in your bedroom is balancing your professional and personal needs. Identifying what works best for you and what does not is a wise start to visualize what your workspace is going to look like. Remember that your health and productivity are among the main aspects that you need to consider when rearranging your room. Last but not least, allow your creativity to flow.
People all over the world have been affected by the pandemic. Governments have enforced restrictions and lockdowns to contain the outbreak, which means that public facilities like schools and childcare have been closed. Employees are also forced to work remotely from home. These measures have brought significant impact into our daily life, especially our routines at home.
Today, the home has become the center of all activities that are supposedly done outside. Multiple people at home at the same time also leads to more chores to do such as cleaning, cooking, and washing dishes. While working from home, one has to juggle household workloads and care-taking demands with one’s full-time job. All of these factors can make managing household chores stressful.
Some chores are time-consuming and required to be done regularly such as laundry, cleaning, and tidying up. A study from the University of Melbourne found that dual-earner parent couples in Australia spend more hours in childcare and housework during the pandemic. In comparison, a man’s daily contribution rose by over three and a half hours while a woman’s daily contribution increased by over four and a half hours a day.
Women are usually the ones who do more chores and childcare. However, a cross-national study of Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States found recent dramatic increases in the proportion of shared childcare and household tasks. The changes can be seen on different tasks, with men doing more grocery shopping while women doing more cleaning. Despite that, some women feel that household chores are a burden due to imbalanced time allocation with their partners.
Some people may experience work-from-home burnout because of the conflict between being an ideal employee and parent or partner. A study analyzed the association between how people spend their time during the pandemic and subjective wellbeing as measured by happiness. It was found that people who spend more time completing chores are more likely to have lower levels of happiness presumably due to the pressure of balancing work and household responsibilities.
As such, there is a need to find a balance between working and doing household chores without adding to the stress. For that to happen, each person must work together to mitigate this problem. Here are some tips to overcome household chores stress:
- Be more flexible
First of all, keep in mind that there’s more time to do tasks by staying at home because there is no commute to the office or school. Some schedules for online meetings or homeschooling activities are also more relaxed. Take advantage of this by doing some chores in between those schedules. Some activities that may not be possible during the day could be done during the night or when things are slow.
- Be there for each other
One of the reasons that cause stress from household chores is when one feels overwhelmed from doing multiple things alone. The study that was done on subjective wellbeing discovered that spending time together with a partner while doing household and childcaring tasks will positively affect one’s happiness. When asking for help or vice-versa, consider what the other person may be experiencing. Apart from that, remember that doing household chores can be learned over time.
- Avoid piling chores
Household chores become overwhelming when things are piled up like leaving dirty dishes on the sink, stacking wrinkly clothes on the corner of the bedroom, and leaving spilled food on the dining table. Doing the chores right away will lessen that burden. Directly washing your cup of coffee after drinking it instead of just leaving the cup on the sink is just one example of getting small things done to lessen the chores later on. The task will only take 1-2 minutes which certainly will not be overwhelming.
While being at home has proven to be advantageous in many ways and keeps people safe from the Covid-19 that’s still going around in many countries, it can also be difficult for some people. The higher demand for household chores and child-caring activities combined with work could be devastating. Being more flexible with daily schedules, asking or helping one another in doing chores, and doing chores immediately before things pile up can help lessen the burden and overall stress. At the end of the day, the home should be conducive for one to be productive as well as function as a space for people to relax.
Employee burnout is one of the most common challenges being faced by companies that are now operating from the comfort of their homes.
An Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum showed that 53% of people mostly or always worked in an office before the pandemic. The figure fell to 39% at the time of the survey, held between 21 May and 4 June 2021. Seventy-six percent of those working from home today say their set-up is a result of the global health crisis.
However, 69% of employees have been experiencing remote work burnout, according to the global online employment platform Monster. Employees who work from home have to manage work, home responsibilities, and different types of anxiety.
What is burnout? Burnout, as defined by Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson in their book “Career Burnout,” is “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.“
In general, employee burnout can be caused by one’s lack of ability to complete their duties, continual exposure to stressful situations, having minimum support from the community, lack of recognition, and inefficiency.
The signs of employee burnout are:
- Frequent illnesses, such as headaches, backache, or insomnia
- Being irritated easily
- Negative outlook
- Low interest and low energy
- Feeling empty and pulling away emotionally from the environment
Individuals who are experiencing burnout at work may not give their best performance since they are under stress. Extreme fatigue could lead to a drop in productivity and may affect any organization. Moreover, burnout could also cause feelings of futility and alienation, undermine the quality of relationships, and diminish long-term career prospects.
Some people resort to short-term solutions, such as going on a vacation. That would certainly help, but the relief they may experience is only temporary. Instead of reacting to burnout, one can prevent it before it happens.
Here are some tips that may create a lasting effect:
Establish boundaries on work schedule. When working from home, it is easy for employees not to realize that they are working overtime. Create a reminder for proper time management and mindful rest at home.
Prioritize a “me” time. A “me” time means allocating time for your own relaxation that is according to your preference. That may mean good sleeping habits, having a balanced diet, or exercising. Apart from physical workouts, one can try practicing meditation. Or one can also spend time on their preferred hobbies, such as hiking or cooking.
Try seeking a purpose at work. Discovering one’s passion through their career can be a source of motivation and other positive feelings. One can also reflect on their impact on their teammates, their company, and their community.
Reconnect. Find time to slow down and observe the surrounding. Start a new connection, like a friendship or mentorship. Interact with others to identify and activate positive relationships as well as learning opportunities. While connecting with others online could be challenging, finding some pockets of time to discuss non-work topics would be a nice break from any work stress.
Discuss work-from-home challenges with the management. Organizations should be aware of issues that their employees who are working from home are struggling with so they can implement new programs to address them.
There is no single solution to work burnout as employees may experience it in different ways. However, starting with small steps like knowing when to log off from work or how to connect with others could make a huge difference.