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When 9-5 becomes 24/7

HR Daily, 19, May 2021

With flexi-work arrangements in place to allow more people to work from home (after a year of lockdown, restrictions and snap-lockdowns), you’d think the added flexibility gives employees more freedom. Why is it that many actually report feeling more burnt out than ever before?

Many businesses had to adopt a work-from-home protocol for their employees with no notice. That means there was no planning or preparation in place. It also means that employees had to spend time trying to achieve a setup that is conducive to work before they have started on their tasks. 

COVID-19 work-from-home arrangements came with many added challenges

Many struggled with connectivity issues, adapting to using new systems and technology, while they were also contending with a space issue and a lack of peace and quiet (many working with kids at home or partners/family at home). It’s no wonder there’s added pressure on employees with these extra hurdles in place. It is difficult to achieve the same levels of productivity. 

Another challenge employees face is that they can’t leave work at work. It can be difficult to switch off after hours and enjoy quality time with family. Employers and colleagues may also be unaware of the need to cease all work-related contact after a certain time of day. Without intending to, employers may actually have increased their expectations and employees are working longer hours in order to squeeze in additional tasks. 

While the employer should be conscious of their employees’ need to ‘switch off’, employees sometimes need to remind the employer of the boundaries and be brave and push back where necessary. 

How can employees protect themselves and keep reasonable boundaries in place?

When businesses make flexible work arrangements, they must be agreed upon in some written form, whether in contracts or in company policies.  

A clear and direct arrangement means that everyone understands the expectations, and that the employee understands their work outcomes need to be within this arrangement. It also enables employees to safely push back without facing extreme repercussions, like being fired. You may, however, experience feeling ostracised, overlooked for projects of promotions or excluded from events and opportunities. 

If everyone was brave enough to push back, these smaller repercussions will lessen in frequency, and eventually will not occur. If you’re meeting all your targets and delivering excellent work, you actually may not face any repercussions at all. 

Mental health and company culture

Company culture is something that still requires attention in a work-from-home employment structure. Nurturing employees’ mental health is essential for the well-being of the entire company. Consider welcoming open dialogues between management and employees so that boundaries can be established and respected. 

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