As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and employees who previously worked in an office environment now work remotely, reports show that Americans have been putting in extra work hours not only during normal workdays but also on national holidays.
Business virtual private networks (VPNs) allow employees to access their company’s networks remotely, and on Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day this year, VPN servers saw an increase of 41 percent and 70 percent, respectively, compared to the average weekend, according to NordVPN Teams, a cloud-based VPN for business.
And since the pandemic began, U.S. employees are spending three hours longer on business VPNs per day than before. In fact, NordVPN Teams reports that in the U.S., the average workweek has increased by almost 40 percent — an extra 15 hours, which equates to more than one extra workweek per month.
During the last few weeks of this year, employers may want to consider reminding employees to step away during the holidays to avoid burnout. Given the surge in working hours, employees’ well-being is important, as long work hours can contribute to poor health and worker fatigue, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which references studies that show “long work hours can result in increased levels of stress, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity and illness.”
Overworked employees, whether by choice or necessity, is not a new phenomenon. As the Harvard Business Review noted back in 2015, “the story of overwork is literally a story of diminishing returns: Keep overworking, and you’ll progressively work more stupidly on tasks that are increasingly meaningless.” Stated simply, working more than 40 hours per week reduces productivity.
This outcome benefits neither the employee nor the employer. And since more than 80 percent of company leaders plan to have their staff work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic, according to a recent Gartner survey, addressing this trend of overworking is worth it.
Besides encouraging employees to take time off during the holidays, set clear schedules for all employees, discourage off-the-clock work and lead by example, as Indeed.com suggests. Managers should log off when their shifts end and establish clear boundaries for themselves on weekends where they don’t work or check emails — and encourage employees to follow suit.
Hopefully, when employees return to work, even remotely, they’ll be refreshed and ready to go for 2021.
Jessica Mulholland, Managing Editor, CalChamber