YOU’RE NOT DREAM­ING: DAY DOES RUN LONGER WORK­ING FROM HOME

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - STU­ART THOM­SON Na­tional Post Email: sx­thom­son @postmedia.com Twit­ter: stu­ar­tx­thom­son

If work­ing from home over the last few months has felt like an end­less slog, with business emails and meet­ings blending seam­lessly into per­sonal time that used to be sa­cred, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A mas­sive study of the world’s work habits since COVID-19 lock­downs went into ef­fect shows the av­er­age work­day for peo­ple toil­ing from home is nearly an hour longer.

The amount of emails sent after business hours has also in­creased by eight per cent, which means the av­er­age worker is deal­ing with an after-hours email about three times per week.

De­spite this, polls show Cana­di­ans are rel­a­tively pleased to be work­ing from home. A re­cent Angus Reid In­sti­tute poll found that 87 per cent of Cana­di­ans de­scribed work­ing from home as “re­ally great” or “OK.” Only 13 per cent said it was aw­ful.

One rea­son for that sat­is­fac­tion may be that peo­ple work­ing from home are spend­ing less time in meet­ings than they used to, even if they are work­ing longer hours.

Although the av­er­age worker is tak­ing part in about one ex­tra meet­ing per day and the meet­ings tend to have about two more peo­ple than they used to, the length of the meet­ings has plunged.

The re­searchers found that meet­ings are about 12 minutes shorter than they were be­fore the lock­downs and that the av­er­age amount of time spent in meet­ings each day has gone down by 19 minutes.

Although the de­crease in the length of meet­ings re­mains un­ex­plained, the re­searchers cite a pre­vi­ous study that found work­ers find it harder to stay en­gaged in virtual meet­ings, com­pared to in-per­son meet­ings. The meet­ing could also be shorter be­cause peo­ple are try­ing to squeeze more of them into their day.

The work­ing paper re­leased on Mon­day by the Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search in the United States an­a­lyzed ag­gre­gated data from dig­i­tal communicat­ions soft­ware used around the world. Be­cause the data is anonymized it leaves open the ques­tion of whether peo­ple are work­ing longer days or just tak­ing ad­van­tage of flex­i­ble hours while work­ing from home.

“It is un­clear if this in­crease in av­er­age work­day span rep­re­sents a ben­e­fit or a draw­back to em­ployee well-be­ing,” the paper read.

The Angus Reid In­sti­tute poll does sug­gest that sat­is­fac­tion about work­ing from home is highly con­tin­gent on the cir­cum­stances.

Only seven per cent of peo­ple liv­ing alone say their work pro­duc­tiv­ity has been aw­ful while work­ing from home.

Among peo­ple work­ing from home with their spouse and kids, that num­ber more than dou­bles to 17 per cent say­ing their pro­duc­tiv­ity has been aw­ful.

The poll also found that nearly 30 per cent of Cana­di­ans are work­ing from home due to the pan­demic.

In the first week of the lock­downs, the re­searchers found that work­ers un­leashed a flurry of emails in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally. The amount of emails con­tin­ued to be high through the first four weeks of the lock­down and then re­turned to pre-lock­down lev­els. The num­ber of re­cip­i­ents on each email has con­tin­ued to be higher than nor­mal, even while email vol­ume went back to nor­mal.

The changes in the length of meet­ings and the length of the work day have also been per­sis­tent through­out the lock­down.

OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP VIA GETTY IM­AGES FILES

A study by the Na­tional Bureau of Eco­nomic Re­search in the United States in­di­cates the av­er­age worker is par­tic­i­pat­ing in about one ex­tra meet­ing a day.

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