One upside of working from home in self-isolation is having freed-up time from commuting, but this could also mean we are unintentionally spending more hours at our desks.
According to an analysis of server activity on its network, NordVPN found that the average working day has increased by three hours in the U.S. since mid-March, when more companies around the world had started to practice working from home due to the widened spread of the coronavirus.
It found that in the U.K., France, Spain and Canada, people are typically working for two more hours a day since that date.
Meanwhile, people were working an extra hour in the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Austria on average but the working day had not changed in Italy, which has so far been the worst-hit country in Europe by the virus.
Gemma Lloyd, co-CEO of global jobs network Work180, said there was a tendency to work longer hours at home as people find it harder to initially adjust and set work-life boundaries.
A person’s working day is typically structured around getting to and from work, she explained, meaning that without the rush to finish work in order to catch a train home, there is no longer the same urgency.
But sitting at a desk for hours on end isn’t healthy, she added, and could be detrimental to the quality of employees’ work over time.
Many people will also be seeking to prove to their employer that they are still working hard, said Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder of flexible working job platform Flexa.
Set an alarm
However, Johnson-Jones said that feeling the need to prove productivity would subside as working from home becomes the norm.
In order to establish better work-life boundaries, she said that employees should not feel the pressure to work during the time that they normally commute. Instead, they could use this time to do some exercise, make breakfast or spend time with family.
Similarly, Johnson-Jones suggested taking regular breaks, as while it might seem like an obvious solution, she said “it’s good to be aware of how long you’ve been looking at a screen without a break.”
Perhaps encouragingly, a recent survey of more than 1,000 full-time workers in the U.S. by American payroll services business Paychex, found that remote employees clocked an average two hours of down-time per day. This was 20 minutes more than the average on-site worker.
Besides taking regular breaks, Lloyd recommended setting an alarm to stop work at the end of the day.
“If you still want to work overtime, that’s fine; hit the snooze button — but much like we wouldn’t sleep in too long, don’t work too late,” she said.
Johnson-Jones urged people to also remember that the current situation of only working from home was not forever and that “sometimes some good can come out of being forced to slow down and adapt.”
“The lessons learnt can help you to manage your work-life balance in the future too, as you might find that working from home a day or two a week really helps your stress levels or productivity once you’ve mastered it,” she added.