British employees working from home due to COVID-19 are overloaded with digital tools and it’s impacting their ability to switch off, according to the findings of a new study by cloud communications platform provider, 8×8.
Almost half (42%) feel more stressed and overwhelmed than when in the office, blaming too many apps, a blurring of the lines between work and home life and difficulty unplugging.
The research, which surveyed 1,000 people working full-time from home since the pandemic hit, raises concerns about the mental state of the workforce as the country enters month three of enforced WFH. It also highlights the continuing need for employers to ensure staff at risk of burnout are properly supported.
A blurring of the lines between personal and professional life (40%) and an inability to unplug from the ‘always on’ virtual working day (38%) were among the most commonly cited reasons for increased anxiety levels among the UK’s home workers, while over a third (36%) believe they are using too many different tools for workplace communication.
The difficulty separating work from home is being driven by a majority using personal devices (67%) and personal communication apps (55%) for work purposes, so it’s no surprise almost a fifth (18%) claim they are putting in longer hours since the move to home working.
Morgan Watts, Head of IT at 8×8, says: “In the rush to equip teams for remote work, businesses may be guilty of overwhelming their employees with too many different new tools, or failing to clearly outline what is and is not approved for use.”
“The saying goes: ‘tidy desk tidy mind’, and this is as true in the virtual office space as it is in the physical. Businesses can help clear digital desktops by minimising the number of platforms employees are expected to use to collaborate and discourage personal communication apps for work purposes.”
“This clear line of separation will make it easier to shut down and encourage a healthier work-life balance at a time when it’s needed most.”
Digital tool overload and the cyber threat
A majority (62%) of those surveyed say they are now using more digital apps and tools in their jobs.
42%* use between 6-15 different apps and platforms during their working day, while a small minority use between 16-20 (2%) or even more (1%).
This digital tool overload can increase the threat of cyberattack, according to Morgan Watts, Head of IT at 8×8: “Working from home introduces cybersecurity gaps but ensuring a streamlined system of less, strictly approved tools will mitigate risk by shrinking the potential attack area. With no end in sight for home working, businesses should now be considering long-term solutions that not only keep their staff productive, but also secure.”
* 6-10 (31%) and 11-15 (11%)
Kindness in isolation
With ‘kindness’ as the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this week, it is fitting that many employees have responded to lockdown by taking a more caring approach with their colleagues:
- 31% say co-workers are taking more time to check-in on how they are feeling
- 25% say co-workers are more likely to offer to help to one another
- 24% say we have talked more as a company about mental health and well-being
And even though teams are physically apart, the usage of remote working tools like video meetings has made many feel closer together – a fifth (20%) say they now know their co-workers better on a personal level.
A flexible future
The findings point to a more flexible future of work post-corona as attitudes shift.
Over half (55%) believe their employer will offer more flexible working after COVID-19, and 7% think they will even go a step further and introduce full-time remote working.
While the majority (58%) of respondents either never or rarely worked from home before the pandemic, there now seems a growing desire to change the status quo with 74% indicating they want more flexibility:
- 31% say they would like to work remotely once or twice a month
- 17% once a week
- 10% more than once a week
- 16% all the time
This is no surprise, considering 40% say working from home in the last couple of months has positively changed their perception of how productive they can be.