It's close to seven months since working from home has become a reality, and there are mixed opinions about its efficacy. While companies such as TCS have announced that 75 per cent of their 4.5 lakh employees would work from home (WFH) and the likes of Google and Facebook have said they would allow their employees to WFH till July 2021, not many are actually willing to keep working from home. Many are eagerly looking forward to get back to their respective offices. Contrary to the perception that women would embrace WFH with open arms because that would enable them to balance their work and family life better, women are actually the ones more desperate to get back to work. As Anjali Bansal, Founder, Avaana Capital, in a recent interview with Business Today, said, "The corporates may have embraced flexibility and WFH, but the attitude of the society hasn't changed." Women are over-worked than ever before thanks to the lockdown, as they need to deal with their jobs along with pressures on the home-front. From household chores to ensuring the smooth progress of children's online schooling, the pandemic has forced them to be on the toes 24/7.
In fact, Saundarya Rajesh, MD of diversity and inclusion firm, Avtar, says that the pandemic and the lockdown thereof, have resulted in a different form of burn-out among women. "They are depressed and feeling run-out. Many of them are fearing that they would lose their voice in their respective organisations, as they are dealing with domestic pressures and are hence not as participative as they would have been in office." While the negatives of the new work life reality have especially impacted women, Microsoft's latest Work Trend Report says that close to one-third (male and female) workers in India are facing increased rates of burnout over the past six months as they haven't been able to set boundaries between work and personal time. The report says that India has the second highest percentage of workers facing increased burn-out in Asia, at 29 per cent. Over 41 per cent Indians say that lack of separation between work and personal life has negatively impacted their well-being , resulting in increases stress levels. The fact that there is nothing called work-hours in the new normal has become a conversation starter in most meetings.
The Microsoft survey was done across eight countries including Australia, Japan, India and Singapore. The report says that there has been a 48 per cent increase in per-person chats on Microsoft Teams alone. These has been a 55 per cent increase in the number of meetings and calls per week and a 69 per cent rise in chats after office hours. Workers also cited differing factors contributing to work stress. The lack of separation between work and life was a prime stressor among 34 percent of workers, with unmanageable workload and/or work hours coming closely behind at 28 per cent. Nearly 23 per cent of workers cited too many meetings and not enough focus time as factors contributing to stress at work.
The high burn-out levels are not necessarily limited to WFH. Ever since the government has allowed the 'unlock' process, a significant number of people have returned to their physical work place, and the report revealed that the top stressors shared by them was the worry about contracting COVID-19 at work and feeling isolated or disconnected from co-workers, at 42 and 35 per cent respectively. The study also found that 19 per cent of workers have not been provided the tech or protective equipment by their compan to maintain social distance effectively, contributing to increased stress levels.
Prior to the lockdown, most people, especially those living in the metros complained about long hours of commute and wasting a significant amount of time in travel. The Microsoft report says that long hours of commute actually helped in improving productivity. An executive at a leading consulting company, agrees. "It's only after getting locked down at home for six months I have realised that the commute time was actually my 'me-time'."