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Work-life balance has gone down the pan since the start of the pandemic

remote working
(Image credit: Shutterstock / GoodStudio)

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent rise of remote working has been a disaster for work-life balance, new data suggests.

According to a blog from software firm Atlassian, not only have staff been working longer hours since lockdowns were introduced in March, but also fail to detach themselves effectively when it comes time to log off.

In the US, UK and Australia, the average remote employee is working for more than 30 additional minutes each day. Although this may not sound like much, that’s at least an extra two and a half hours per week - or roughly 130 additional hours over the course of the year.

Across all regions analyzed, remote staff are both starting work earlier and finishing later, with many employees also making a habit of working into the late evening. In other words, the candle is being burned at both ends.

Switching off from work

The concern, according to Atlassian, is that issues that arise as a result of extended working hours will ultimately outweigh the benefits of remote working (e.g. greater flexibility, more family time, heightened focus), preventing employees from maintaining a healthy equilibrium.

“The grand (if unplanned) remote work experiment we find ourselves in has been a boon for some and a burden for others,” wrote Arik Friedman, Principal Data Scientist at Atlassian.

“Throughout this experience, I’ve sensed that working from home blurs the boundaries between our professional and personal lives, putting us at risk of burning out en masse. But I couldn’t back up that feeling with facts, until now.”

Indeed, the firm found that more than half of respondents said it’s now harder to maintain work-life boundaries, and 23% think about work after hours more than they used to.

According to Atlassian, companies will need to look at setting strict policies that guard against potential burnout - no matter how fanciful that may sound. These policies might include dedicated wellbeing check-ins, regular mandated breaks and a prohibition on after-hours communication.

“Remote work will be part of our lives to some extent for a long time. The question now is whether we can find a way to make remote work work - for everyone,” added Freidman.