Dealing with the ‘Always-On’ Remote Working Culture is Painstakingly Hard for Employees

Survey of remote employees also reveals a generational divide in working conditions, with almost half of younger employees working in shared spaces at home

COVID-19 induced workplace cultures have been hard to adjust to — a recent report by Egress has unraveled the mood among employees coping with new challenges of remote working.  A majority of employees who managed to retain their jobs found themselves dealing with the same set of problems that they experienced in March 202 — no change, whatsoever.

Dealing with the ‘Always-On’ Culture is Painstakingly Hard

Remote workers are still struggling with distracting working environments, stress and an ‘always-on’ culture after a year of working from home, new research has revealed. Egress’ Remote working: one year on report found that three-quarters of remote workers reported feeling worse as a result of long-term working from home, with almost over one-third (39%) feeling more stressed. The research also revealed a significant generational divide, with 66% of millennial and generation Z workers reporting feeling either tired, stressed or under more pressure at work, compared with 34% of baby boomer and Gen-X employees.

The study, independently conducted by Arlington Research on behalf of Egress, interviewed 500 IT leaders and 3,000 remote-working employees in the US and UK across vertical sectors covering financial services, healthcare and legal.

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Employees’ Communication Habits Have Changed: Emails, Videos and Team Chats

Remote working has inevitably changed how employees communicate, with increased reliance on digital tools. Email is the preferred channel, with 85% of employees reporting that they’re sending more of them than when they were based in the office. The pandemic has also seen the rise of video conferencing, with 77% of employees indicating that they’re using tools like Zoom more now too.

Key insights include:

  • Three-quarters (73%) of respondents report feeling worse overall as a result of long-term remote working
  • 66% of millennial and generation Z remote workers feel more tired, stressed or under more pressure, compared with only 34% of baby boomer and generation X employees
  • Almost half (48%) of millennial and generation Z remote workers are still working from a shared space, compared with 33% of baby boomers and generation X
  • Employees’ communication habits have changed, with 85% of employees sending more emails and 77% using video conferencing tools more frequently than before the pandemic
  • 43% of respondents were full-time office-based before the pandemic, and just 28% plan to return full-time once the pandemic is over
  • 68% of workers plan for some degree of flexibility, with just 5% of current remote workers planning to stay permanently remote once their office reopens

After a year of working from home, many employees are still putting up with the same makeshift offices they set up in March 2020. Almost half (48%) of younger workers reported working in a shared space, compared with one-third of their baby boomer and generation X counterparts. Overall, just 28% of remote workers have solo access to a home office.

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Adapting to Flexi Working Hours

While 43% of respondents were based in the office full-time before the pandemic, there’s been a clear shift in attitudes towards flexible working. Just 28% of respondents are currently planning to return to the office full-time once that option becomes available. Hybrid working was the most popular choice, with 68% of remote workers indicating that they’d like a mixture of office and remote working. Just 5% of remote workers plan to work from home full-time in the future. When it comes to returning full-time, there’s a clear generational divide, with 35% of millennials and generation Z employees planning to return full-time, compared with just 22% of their baby boomer and generation X counterparts.

Richard Mortimer, Chief People Officer at Egress, comments “For those who have been working from home for the last year, there have been significant changes to a typical working day. For many remote workers these findings will contain lots of familiar points – many have experienced increased work pressures, stress and distractions during this period, and for younger employees in particular, challenges around shared workspaces can be particularly difficult. While for some employees, remote working has been a welcome break from the office and the daily commute, for others it has been a different story. With many organisations now contemplating what the future looks like in terms of returning to the office, it’s important that all employees’ voices are heard.”

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