New Research Finds Remote Workers Are Putting in More Time Than Before the Pandemic

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Many employees have longed to work from home, looking to escape the commute and have more time in the day, but new research performed in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Austria have shown that workers are spending more time working than ever.

According to this new research performed during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees working remotely spend approximately 2.5 hours more on the average workday. This increase in work hours was most dramatic in the U.K. and Netherlands, where employees would regularly work as late as 8 p.m. In contrast, workers in Spain, Denmark, and Belgium had a sudden increase in hours spent working, but this dropped back to pre-pandemic levels.

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The researchers found that when analyzing data collected from a business VPN provider, NordVN, employees’ use of VPN data did not drop significantly during lunchtime, indicating that most workers likely do not take regular lunch breaks. Additionally, researchers found that VPN server traffic on Thanksgiving was 41% greater than on the ordinary weekend, which also indicates that employees are working through family times. 

Although an analysis of business server traffic cannot definitively prove that employees are not using the servers for personal use, the study concluded that this appears less likely than the alternative. According to a spokesperson from the VPN provider, most employees use business servers appropriately, particularly given that there are VPNs readily available for personal use.

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This trend toward excessive working hours has become worrisomely prevalent during the pandemic and the corresponding movement toward working from home. For example, a remote team-building experience provider, Timewise, performed independent research found that more than half of U.K. employees reported being asked to work outside of their regular hours while working remotely. Correspondingly, nearly three-quarters of employees working from home reported suffering from stress, fatigue, or burnout during the pandemic.

The researchers talked to employees from more than 100 companies in the U.K., and nearly half reported an increase in workload since beginning working from home; 31% stated that working from home during the pandemic has affected their mental health, such as depression, anxiety, or exhaustion.

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As countless employers have been forced to shift their workforce to operating remotely, this research shows that human resources will need to work to help employees maintain a healthy work and life balance. As labor shortages afflict many employers, workloads have often increased, and many employees feel the need to work through illness. This has now been aggravated by the lack of a clear distinction between work and personal lives. In response, HR will need to help employees find this balance.

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