As we all continue to hunker down in our home offices, we continue to bend trends and develop a new way of working in the business world. Zoom calls have replaced morning office meetings and Slack is the new water cooler. While most of us delighted in the chance to work in our pajamas back in March of 2020, we’re now almost a full year into lockdown life and it’s starting to get the best of us.
The question that heads of HR, CEOs, and even we ourselves are asking is: Does having our phone at our fingertips at all times make us more productive while we work? Is the home office distracting, productivity-enhancing, or downright depressing?
To understand our pandemic pains as they relate to work-life balance, productivity, and privacy, we asked nearly 200 people who have been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s what we found.
Constant Connectivity Isn’t Increasing Productivity
46% of our work-from-home respondents said they’re just as productive as before; over 18% said they’re less productive. This is likely due to the fact that 87% of them said they haven’t installed specific apps to help them with productivity.
While we (and nearly every business with a blog) has written about helpful productivity tools and software for workers to use during the pandemic, the issue doesn’t seem to be linked to a lack of knowledge about the apps. Rather, it’s more about the fact that people don’t seem to have time to download, learn, and use these apps. We’re overloaded as it is, and our phones are one of the biggest culprits of that crime.
In fact, 86% of those polled said that they’re not only glued to their phone more but that the reason why was work-related. Just 38% and 23% said they’re using it for productivity or mindfulness, respectively.
Nearly 76% said they’re using their phone more in general since the pandemic has started, whether it’s for work or not. Of those who responded that they’re using their phone more than before, close to 48% said they’re using their phone at least 5 to 10 hours more per week than before, with over 33% of respondents noting that they’re using their phone at least 10 hours more per week than before.
Is easy access to social media to blame? Now that we’re at home and nobody is hovering over our shoulders, it’s so much more tempting to swipe through stories on Instagram and give a quick scroll through Facebook during working hours.
Close to 69% of those polled said they’re much more tempted to browse social media while working from home. And a total of 48% of people said they’re using social media more than before the pandemic (but we didn’t account for 2020 being an election year full of political drama and unique social conversations, which could skew the numbers).
Our Relationships With Our Phones Are Changing
Whereas we used to use our phones for social media browsing, fun video chats, and the occasional game or two, the pandemic is shaping a new era in which we don’t seem to view our smartphones as helpful, fun tools that enhance our lives. Now, they’re a source of stress.
The majority of respondents said that their relationship with their phones has changed a lot during the pandemic and due to recent current events in the United States. A total of 67% said that their relationship with their phone has changed in some way or another.
Really, it’s no wonder we’re all burnt out. A total of 71% of people said it’s somewhat or extremely difficult to disconnect from work due to the fact that they’ve always got their phone on them. Whereas before, we’d head home and “turn off,” the lines between work life and home life are blurred, not only by our bosses and managers but by ourselves. How often have you logged on late at night or pinger your coworker for something at 7 pm simply because your computer is always within arm’s reach?
The result is an odd working culture that we seem to have cultivated “for the time being” until “things get back to normal.” Well, this might just be the new normal, and we’re making it worse.
52% of Workers Receive Calls Out of Office Hours
Even though more people are working from home, 62% of our respondents didn’t receive a second phone from their company to use for work purposes. This means that more people are using their personal phones for work tasks. Is that difficult? Yep. Exactly 50% of those polled said it’s harder to find work-life balance this way.
And, it means that more people are receiving phone calls out of office hours. 52% of workers said they receive phone calls out of office hours at least 1 to 2 times a week, with 25% saying it occurs more than 3 times a week.
Are those calls important? 20% say they’re not at all.
Work-Related Anxiety Has Increased in 70% of Employees
When the world screeched to a halt last spring, we all banded together and decided to make working from home “fun.” Virtual happy hours, Zoom yoga, and other events made the environment feel less lonely. Then, the funny videos of people accidentally walking into a call in their underwear surfaced, along with the videos of cats and dogs becoming famous on Zoom calls.
While this has allowed us to peer into the personal lives of our peers and coworkers in an effort to create a sense of closeness during a time when we all feel so far apart, you have to wonder whether or not some of us feel as though we’re compromising on our privacy.
30% of the people we asked said that they do feel that they’re compromising on their privacy by answering calls on their personal phone while at home. 15% say that it’s interrupted their personal life in some way.
And, it’s leading to more anxiety. A total of 70% of our respondents said they feel more anxious when receiving calls and texts now because they associate it with work-related tasks. When asked to rate that anxiety on a scale from 1-10, the average anxiety level was between a 6 and a 7.
We’re Farther Apart Than Ever
Technology has advanced to now allow us to constantly connect with anyone or anything. We can join Clubhouse chats with people from around the world, drop into conversations on live social feeds, and peer into the private lives of others at any second of any day.
However, despite being more connected to technology than ever and despite always being “on” these days, our study revealed that we’re farther apart than ever.
We’re simply not feeling more connected to others by having our phones constantly by our sides. Only 9% said they feel more connected to others via their phone during the pandemic. That means 91% of the hundreds of people we polled aren’t getting the value out of what technology promises us in the 2020s: a way to connect with and understand others. Instead, we’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and disconnected.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you’re struggling to draw a line between work life and your personal life, we’d love to hear about what’s causing the most friction so we can work together to figure out where we go from here.
Would a dedicated phone line just for work-related matters make life easier, or is this a matter of fighting the fatigue until “things go back to normal?”
Leave a comment below to let us know how you’re managing work-from-home stress during the pandemic.