.
S

ince March, millions of Americans have been working from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The swift action taken by employees at the behest of their employers has saved lives all the while offering them increased flexibility and the ability to work on their own terms.

On the other hand, remote work has revealed that many companies lack critical infrastructure and policies needed to support employees working from home. Additionally, they also reveal an increasing need to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts in order to maintain equity gains in the workplace.

Fishbowl, a social network for verified professionals, has increasingly served as the “virtual” hallways of companies, allowing us to run surveys and gain unique insight into the emotional, mental, and financial strain they are experiencing.

As to be expected, professionals need more support than ever. In this report, we highlight three key trends that employers should be aware of as they develop policies. And, we make five recommendations on how employers can best support their employees through this difficult time.

Done right, employers can use this time to learn from their employees, develop policies that promote a thriving work environment, and set a precedent of flexibility and strength for the future.

Remote Work Trends

Professionals are working “longer” hours than before; burnout is inevitable.

Working from home has directly impacted professionals’ working hours, and not for the better. A survey of Fishbowl’s professional communities, which included employees at companies such as IBM, JP Morgan, Facebook, McKinsey, Google, Edelman, Nike and thousands of others, revealed that 55.05 percent of employees are working more hours from home. In the same survey, 1 out of 5 respondents reported working an additional 10 or more hours than before the pandemic. When breaking down the data by industry, Management Consulting had the highest percentage of saying they work more hours with 61.4 percent.

These findings aren’t novel; for some time now the 40-hour work week has been a myth. However, now remote work has blurred professionals’ work-life boundaries. Professionals are tethered to technology all day long and have lost the ability to distinguish between social and work time. In addition to knowing no bounds, another possible contributing factor to working longer hours is fear. Now more than ever, employees are scared they’ll be laid off. In a survey of Fisbowl’s professional communities conducted at the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic, 54.06% of professionals answered that they believe Coronavirus will result in layoffs at their company. Today, that fear has been realized; 54 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims and insurance.

As revealed by another Fishbowl survey, professionals simply cannot keep up this pace. When asked about the mental toll work from home (WFH) is having on them, 68.7 percent of respondents (from 8 different industries) indicated they were experiencing burnout. And, this was especially true for professionals working in industries such as tech (where 74.27% of respondents are experiencing burnout), advertising and marketing (where 73.19% are), and management consultants (where 71.45% are). Interestingly, healthcare workers had the lowest percentage of respondents indicating that they were burned out (at 55.79%). Still, even across industries, the majority of professionals are experiencing burnout because of working from home.

Companies have a responsibility to resolve this issue for the mental, and physical, health of their employees. Burnout is not just mental or emotional; it’s physical. Research from Harvard Business School suggests employees are more likely to get sick, feel the physical manifestations of stress, and suffer from more serious illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Additionally, if these trends continue, employees will soon face the economic repercussions of employers struggling to stay motivated. Productivity will decrease as employees burn out, but health costs will skyrocket. The same Harvard Business School study revealed that burnout costs between $125 billion and $190 billion every year in healthcare costs. If employers do not take steps to protect the mental well-being of their employees, the economic and physical impacts of burnout will be catastrophic.

Parents struggling to juggle professional and childcare responsibilities.

Professionals with children are also struggling in the new, remote workplace. Now, parents are not only expected to work and take care of their children; they must do both tasks simultaneously.

In a Fishbowl survey back in March, we explored the impact of this new lifestyle on employees with kids. When we asked if they have been willing to juggle working from home and childcare, a staggering 62% of the professionals who responded said “no.” Further, breaking down the data by gender reveals a divide in who is taking on parenting responsibilities: 46.23% of men reported being able to juggle work and watching children, and only 25.14% of women answered the same way. Even in 2020 and during a global pandemic, household responsibilities are not being shared equally.

A more recent Fishbowl survey, from June, reveals the consequences of this inequality. We asked professionals: has the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated disruptions to childcare, school and home life, led you to consider leaving your job or scaling back your hours? And, 21.82% of women reported having already left their job or scaled back hours, while only 17.72% of men responded the same way. When who takes care of the kids is gendered, who chooses to leave the workplace will also be.

These figures might, and probably will, change as stay at home orders continue and parents must do childcare on their own. Certainly, parents were impacted by whether K-12 schools remained closed this fall (a measure which a majority of teachers supported) or reopened.

Regardless, whether parents decide to leave or remain in the workforce will have a large impact on household incomes. Parents lose roughly $30–35 billion in income due to the high cost of ECE (early care and education) which forces many to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours.

On a macroeconomic level, the data reveals that the workforce will change and be impacted. If more women than men elect or are forced to leave work, there will be a drop off in gender diversity at companies. This is especially concerning for industries that are already struggling to recruit women. The exodus will also have a devastating financial impact on employers. The cost of onboarding new employees is not cheap. Onboarding costs are estimated to range from 5.8 percent to 213 percent of employees’ salaries, depending on the job and employee skills.

Companies need to change their cultures to support working parents. Without these changes, the number of employees, particularly (as the data indicates) female employees, who leave the workforce will only increase, especially as schools potentially remain closed this fall. Since working from home and parenting is extremely difficult, employers should work to assist their employees with children in any way they can.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected.

Employees leaving cities for cheaper locations.

Employers must also consider the possibility that working from home will become permanent. And, if this does happen, they should expect to see their employees relocating.

This July, Fishbowl asked its users if they are considering moving to cheaper locations. And, 47 percent responded that they are either thinking about moving or have already done so. The results varied by region, with residents of housing hotspots like San Francisco and New York City being the most likely to consider moving. Otherwise, however, the data was not gendered and did not vary by age. Major (and expensive) cities will see a major drop in population size if the workforce stays remote.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected. This is more important than you might assume. Queen's University Centre for Business Venturing collected and analyzed data to find that organizations with a strong culture also had:

- 65% greater share-price increase

- 26% less employee turnover

- 100% more unsolicited employment applications

- 15% greater employee productivity.

The impact of a strong, tangible, and exciting company culture will not only influence employees’ emotional state and productivity, but also the financial success of the company.

Companies must work with their employees to create a culture driven by productivity and inclusivity, even if those employees are working from far away. Employers should also make space for discussions about remote working permanently and its impact on the company. WFH might not be the right long-term call for all companies or employees, especially given the emotional, physical, and cultural impacts outlined above.

Recommendations

During this difficult time, companies need to support their employees by creating cultures driven by sustainability, compassion, and flexibility. To help employers start this discussion, here are five recommendations on how to offer support:

Adapt to your employees’ work from home lifestyles.

Almost overnight, companies discovered they have hundreds or thousands of satellite offices in the form of employees' homes. While there’s no one easy solution to the challenges WFH poses, it’s essential that you provide your employees with ways to communicate across these “satellite offices.” Tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack are great for getting work done, but where do your employees go to ask questions they may have otherwise done in your office hallways?

That’s where tools like Facebook Workplace can be effective in providing an intra-company for employees to chatter and ask questions. You can also elect to engage your employees on platforms that they trust and where they are already present. Apps like Fishbowl have company bowls where your employees are likely already communicating and asking questions. Engaging and communicating with employees in these channels helps build trust with your employees and establishes you as an empathetic employer supporting its people.

Now, with so many ways to digitally co-work (via video or text), there are also many ways to connect and talk more socially with your teams. Establish a social Slack channel or Google Hangouts channel to discuss life changes and check in. Also, consider scheduling remote social events, like a weekly zoom call, with your team. If the company offered in-person, office perks (like free lunches or opportunities), find ways to bring those back remotely too. These steps will make the workplace (even if it is remote) feel friendlier and less transactional.

If employees do choose to relocate to other cities, consider creating smaller branch offices where two or three employees can work together in a space.

Increase communication and transparency with employees.

With so much uncertainty in the world, with the pandemic and state of the economy, it is important to be as transparent as possible with your employees. Eliminate uncertainty whenever possible even if this means having uncomfortable conversations about potential layoffs or company changes.

Also, create a space for honest and direct communication, which will allow you to listen to your employees and their concerns. This could be forums, individual check ins, or even anonymous surveys. However, you do it, make sure you are getting feedback on what your employees want and need from work.

Promote a sustainable and manageable work-life balance.

Creating a social and flexible culture will help encourage employees to socialize, but it is also important that they spend time offline and away from their screens. Create policies to encourage breaks during the workday and normalize spending time offline and taking whole days off. With the pandemic and spending so much time at home, employees might feel increased pressure to work longer hours, but you should ensure them that this is not necessary.

Consider those who might need extra support.

Remember that not all people are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Parents especially, might need extra flexibility around scheduling during the school year. And, whenever possible, try to work with your employees to find solutions, rather than assuming what works for you will work for them.

Also, continue to prioritize diverse perspectives in the workplace especially during these difficult times. Make sure the remote work environment stays just as inclusive as the office.

Put employees first.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make compassion a priority. Even if you can’t understand what another person is going through exactly, practice kindness and empathy. Humanize your workplace and create an environment for employee and employer relationships to exist beyond the bare minimum. Check in when a coworker doesn’t seem themselves and find ways to express your appreciation throughout the day.

Remotely, it is more difficult to pick up on facial expressions or tone, so make a point of being as clear and encouraging as possible. Right now, everyone can use a little extra support. As an employer, you have the opportunity to provide it.

While this list certainly isn’t all there is to helping your employees through these difficult times, it can be a start. A healthy, flexible, online culture, transparent communication, encouraging a work-life balance, and practicing compassion are all crucial to helping your employees stay mentally and emotionally healthy during this time. The data may suggest that employees are struggling, feeling burnt out, and stressed, but by taking steps to put your employees first, and listening to them, you can help curb these trends.

About
Matt Sunbulli
:
Matt Sunbulli is CEO and Co-founder of Fishbowl, a new social network that connects professionals to have candid and relevant conversations about workplace topics.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Trends Shaping Work from Home

Photo by Bonnie Kittle via Unsplash.

October 19, 2020

S

ince March, millions of Americans have been working from home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The swift action taken by employees at the behest of their employers has saved lives all the while offering them increased flexibility and the ability to work on their own terms.

On the other hand, remote work has revealed that many companies lack critical infrastructure and policies needed to support employees working from home. Additionally, they also reveal an increasing need to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts in order to maintain equity gains in the workplace.

Fishbowl, a social network for verified professionals, has increasingly served as the “virtual” hallways of companies, allowing us to run surveys and gain unique insight into the emotional, mental, and financial strain they are experiencing.

As to be expected, professionals need more support than ever. In this report, we highlight three key trends that employers should be aware of as they develop policies. And, we make five recommendations on how employers can best support their employees through this difficult time.

Done right, employers can use this time to learn from their employees, develop policies that promote a thriving work environment, and set a precedent of flexibility and strength for the future.

Remote Work Trends

Professionals are working “longer” hours than before; burnout is inevitable.

Working from home has directly impacted professionals’ working hours, and not for the better. A survey of Fishbowl’s professional communities, which included employees at companies such as IBM, JP Morgan, Facebook, McKinsey, Google, Edelman, Nike and thousands of others, revealed that 55.05 percent of employees are working more hours from home. In the same survey, 1 out of 5 respondents reported working an additional 10 or more hours than before the pandemic. When breaking down the data by industry, Management Consulting had the highest percentage of saying they work more hours with 61.4 percent.

These findings aren’t novel; for some time now the 40-hour work week has been a myth. However, now remote work has blurred professionals’ work-life boundaries. Professionals are tethered to technology all day long and have lost the ability to distinguish between social and work time. In addition to knowing no bounds, another possible contributing factor to working longer hours is fear. Now more than ever, employees are scared they’ll be laid off. In a survey of Fisbowl’s professional communities conducted at the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic, 54.06% of professionals answered that they believe Coronavirus will result in layoffs at their company. Today, that fear has been realized; 54 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims and insurance.

As revealed by another Fishbowl survey, professionals simply cannot keep up this pace. When asked about the mental toll work from home (WFH) is having on them, 68.7 percent of respondents (from 8 different industries) indicated they were experiencing burnout. And, this was especially true for professionals working in industries such as tech (where 74.27% of respondents are experiencing burnout), advertising and marketing (where 73.19% are), and management consultants (where 71.45% are). Interestingly, healthcare workers had the lowest percentage of respondents indicating that they were burned out (at 55.79%). Still, even across industries, the majority of professionals are experiencing burnout because of working from home.

Companies have a responsibility to resolve this issue for the mental, and physical, health of their employees. Burnout is not just mental or emotional; it’s physical. Research from Harvard Business School suggests employees are more likely to get sick, feel the physical manifestations of stress, and suffer from more serious illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Additionally, if these trends continue, employees will soon face the economic repercussions of employers struggling to stay motivated. Productivity will decrease as employees burn out, but health costs will skyrocket. The same Harvard Business School study revealed that burnout costs between $125 billion and $190 billion every year in healthcare costs. If employers do not take steps to protect the mental well-being of their employees, the economic and physical impacts of burnout will be catastrophic.

Parents struggling to juggle professional and childcare responsibilities.

Professionals with children are also struggling in the new, remote workplace. Now, parents are not only expected to work and take care of their children; they must do both tasks simultaneously.

In a Fishbowl survey back in March, we explored the impact of this new lifestyle on employees with kids. When we asked if they have been willing to juggle working from home and childcare, a staggering 62% of the professionals who responded said “no.” Further, breaking down the data by gender reveals a divide in who is taking on parenting responsibilities: 46.23% of men reported being able to juggle work and watching children, and only 25.14% of women answered the same way. Even in 2020 and during a global pandemic, household responsibilities are not being shared equally.

A more recent Fishbowl survey, from June, reveals the consequences of this inequality. We asked professionals: has the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated disruptions to childcare, school and home life, led you to consider leaving your job or scaling back your hours? And, 21.82% of women reported having already left their job or scaled back hours, while only 17.72% of men responded the same way. When who takes care of the kids is gendered, who chooses to leave the workplace will also be.

These figures might, and probably will, change as stay at home orders continue and parents must do childcare on their own. Certainly, parents were impacted by whether K-12 schools remained closed this fall (a measure which a majority of teachers supported) or reopened.

Regardless, whether parents decide to leave or remain in the workforce will have a large impact on household incomes. Parents lose roughly $30–35 billion in income due to the high cost of ECE (early care and education) which forces many to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours.

On a macroeconomic level, the data reveals that the workforce will change and be impacted. If more women than men elect or are forced to leave work, there will be a drop off in gender diversity at companies. This is especially concerning for industries that are already struggling to recruit women. The exodus will also have a devastating financial impact on employers. The cost of onboarding new employees is not cheap. Onboarding costs are estimated to range from 5.8 percent to 213 percent of employees’ salaries, depending on the job and employee skills.

Companies need to change their cultures to support working parents. Without these changes, the number of employees, particularly (as the data indicates) female employees, who leave the workforce will only increase, especially as schools potentially remain closed this fall. Since working from home and parenting is extremely difficult, employers should work to assist their employees with children in any way they can.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected.

Employees leaving cities for cheaper locations.

Employers must also consider the possibility that working from home will become permanent. And, if this does happen, they should expect to see their employees relocating.

This July, Fishbowl asked its users if they are considering moving to cheaper locations. And, 47 percent responded that they are either thinking about moving or have already done so. The results varied by region, with residents of housing hotspots like San Francisco and New York City being the most likely to consider moving. Otherwise, however, the data was not gendered and did not vary by age. Major (and expensive) cities will see a major drop in population size if the workforce stays remote.

Employers should plan for their workforce to stay online and digital for the time being, but they should also consider the long-term impacts of working from home. If a sizable number of employees moves away, the company’s culture will certainly be affected. This is more important than you might assume. Queen's University Centre for Business Venturing collected and analyzed data to find that organizations with a strong culture also had:

- 65% greater share-price increase

- 26% less employee turnover

- 100% more unsolicited employment applications

- 15% greater employee productivity.

The impact of a strong, tangible, and exciting company culture will not only influence employees’ emotional state and productivity, but also the financial success of the company.

Companies must work with their employees to create a culture driven by productivity and inclusivity, even if those employees are working from far away. Employers should also make space for discussions about remote working permanently and its impact on the company. WFH might not be the right long-term call for all companies or employees, especially given the emotional, physical, and cultural impacts outlined above.

Recommendations

During this difficult time, companies need to support their employees by creating cultures driven by sustainability, compassion, and flexibility. To help employers start this discussion, here are five recommendations on how to offer support:

Adapt to your employees’ work from home lifestyles.

Almost overnight, companies discovered they have hundreds or thousands of satellite offices in the form of employees' homes. While there’s no one easy solution to the challenges WFH poses, it’s essential that you provide your employees with ways to communicate across these “satellite offices.” Tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack are great for getting work done, but where do your employees go to ask questions they may have otherwise done in your office hallways?

That’s where tools like Facebook Workplace can be effective in providing an intra-company for employees to chatter and ask questions. You can also elect to engage your employees on platforms that they trust and where they are already present. Apps like Fishbowl have company bowls where your employees are likely already communicating and asking questions. Engaging and communicating with employees in these channels helps build trust with your employees and establishes you as an empathetic employer supporting its people.

Now, with so many ways to digitally co-work (via video or text), there are also many ways to connect and talk more socially with your teams. Establish a social Slack channel or Google Hangouts channel to discuss life changes and check in. Also, consider scheduling remote social events, like a weekly zoom call, with your team. If the company offered in-person, office perks (like free lunches or opportunities), find ways to bring those back remotely too. These steps will make the workplace (even if it is remote) feel friendlier and less transactional.

If employees do choose to relocate to other cities, consider creating smaller branch offices where two or three employees can work together in a space.

Increase communication and transparency with employees.

With so much uncertainty in the world, with the pandemic and state of the economy, it is important to be as transparent as possible with your employees. Eliminate uncertainty whenever possible even if this means having uncomfortable conversations about potential layoffs or company changes.

Also, create a space for honest and direct communication, which will allow you to listen to your employees and their concerns. This could be forums, individual check ins, or even anonymous surveys. However, you do it, make sure you are getting feedback on what your employees want and need from work.

Promote a sustainable and manageable work-life balance.

Creating a social and flexible culture will help encourage employees to socialize, but it is also important that they spend time offline and away from their screens. Create policies to encourage breaks during the workday and normalize spending time offline and taking whole days off. With the pandemic and spending so much time at home, employees might feel increased pressure to work longer hours, but you should ensure them that this is not necessary.

Consider those who might need extra support.

Remember that not all people are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Parents especially, might need extra flexibility around scheduling during the school year. And, whenever possible, try to work with your employees to find solutions, rather than assuming what works for you will work for them.

Also, continue to prioritize diverse perspectives in the workplace especially during these difficult times. Make sure the remote work environment stays just as inclusive as the office.

Put employees first.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make compassion a priority. Even if you can’t understand what another person is going through exactly, practice kindness and empathy. Humanize your workplace and create an environment for employee and employer relationships to exist beyond the bare minimum. Check in when a coworker doesn’t seem themselves and find ways to express your appreciation throughout the day.

Remotely, it is more difficult to pick up on facial expressions or tone, so make a point of being as clear and encouraging as possible. Right now, everyone can use a little extra support. As an employer, you have the opportunity to provide it.

While this list certainly isn’t all there is to helping your employees through these difficult times, it can be a start. A healthy, flexible, online culture, transparent communication, encouraging a work-life balance, and practicing compassion are all crucial to helping your employees stay mentally and emotionally healthy during this time. The data may suggest that employees are struggling, feeling burnt out, and stressed, but by taking steps to put your employees first, and listening to them, you can help curb these trends.

About
Matt Sunbulli
:
Matt Sunbulli is CEO and Co-founder of Fishbowl, a new social network that connects professionals to have candid and relevant conversations about workplace topics.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.