Blurred lines

Three months into the lock­down, SA work­ers are feel­ing the burnout and stress that come with work­ing from home

Financial Mail - - DIAMONDS & DOGS - Nafisa Ak­a­bor The Stress

ý No bound­aries, lone­li­ness, dif­fi­culty with time man­age­ment and digital mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion are just some of the prob­lems that work­ers have had to con­tend with since the lock­down forced them to work from home.

Even though work­ing from home has re­sulted in an over­all boost in pro­duc­tiv­ity, it has also come at the cost of em­ployee ex­haus­tion and men­tal well­be­ing.

Anne Dolin­schek of mar­ket­ing firm Nflu­en­tial says the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to work­ing longer days is the avoid­ance of long hours in traf­fic.

“I think there’s a blurred line since the lock­down started. Some clients and em­ploy­ers don’t know where the bound­aries are and seem to think peo­ple are avail­able 24/7 be­cause we’re all at home, in­stead of stick­ing to work­ing hours.”

There isn’t an ex­pec­ta­tion from her em­ployer to work longer hours, but Dolin­schek says there’s a lot more on the go, mak­ing it nec­es­sary to get things done, which can be ex­haust­ing.

“There is also men­tal and emo­tional ex­haus­tion from work­ing in an un­known sit­u­a­tion with no idea when it will end. Some time off with no ex­pec­ta­tion to check e-mails or do work would be great to recharge.”

Mo­hammed Da­wood*, who works at a large mo­bile op­er­a­tor and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of an­ger­ing his em­ployer, has been work­ing long hours be­cause con­sumers use cell­phone net­works so much more dur­ing the lock­down. His projects were pri­ori­tised and greater pres­sure has been placed on ex­ist­ing work to help his firm en­sure it keeps up with cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions. “There is a gen­eral ac­cep­tance with most of my team mem­bers that the time usu­ally spent in traf­fic is now spent on­line, whether in an­other meet­ing or deal­ing with user queries,” says Da­wood.

“My com­pany has a very sup­port­ive and un­der­stand­ing work-from-home pol­icy, in­clud­ing meet­ing-free pe­ri­ods, on­line well­ness ses­sions, and the abil­ity to run es­sen­tial er­rands dur­ing work­ing hours. But the re­al­ity is that if you are part of a team that re­quires you to be present, it is dif­fi­cult to take ad­van­tage of those ben­e­fits.”

Da­wood has been en­cour­aged to take leave by his com­pany’s HR depart­ment, which noted that there have been very few leave ap­pli­ca­tions dur­ing the lock­down.

Shamima Ebrahim*, the head of projects and op­er­a­tions at a fin­tech, no­ticed that her teams have been more pro­duc­tive since lock­down be­gan. “There were 1,520 hours logged in a sin­gle week dur­ing May from my team of 33, which is an av­er­age of 46 hours per per­son,” says Ebrahim. A nor­mal 8am to 5pm shift (ex­clud­ing a lunch hour) amounts to 40 hours a week.

“This is not the norm and def­i­nitely not ex­pected. Work is sched­uled and there is no com­pany com­mit­ment to work late un­less a de­ploy­ment has been planned. But to­wards the end of May, burnout was start­ing to set in,” she says.

The com­pany has reg­u­lar check-ins with its em­ploy­ees and en­cour­ages a time­out. Un­for­tu­nately, that can be lim­ited to stepping out into the gar­den, do­ing ex­er­cise or switch­ing screen time to Net­flix.

“We’ve also asked our staff to

set work­ing hours that they can stick to be­cause there is no ex­pec­ta­tion to be avail­able 24/7 or to be ‘more avail­able’ when work­ing re­motely,” says Ebrahim.

Her firm is mov­ing of­fice and has given its em­ploy­ees the op­tion to take their of­fice equip­ment home dur­ing this pe­riod. “A good chair makes such a dif­fer­ence. The first few weeks of ad­just­ing had led to an in­crease in back pain and physio ap­point­ments,” she says.

Lo­cal author Richard Sut­ton has turned his 2018 book,

Code, into an app to help peo­ple man­age their stress lev­els dur­ing the pan­demic.

The Stress Code app lets users take stress, re­silience and mood tests with the abil­ity to cal­cu­late po­ten­tial burnout and choose ways to man­age stress. A snap­shot of test re­sults with per­cent­ages are dis­played in colour-coded graphs on the dash­board, which is aimed at in­di­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies.

Sut­ton says the app pro­vides or­gan­i­sa­tions of any size with a con­sul­tant to help with a strate­gic di­rec­tion, and was suc­cess­fully pi­loted with in­ter­na­tional law firm Baker Mcken­zie. “It’s a real-time based tech­nol­ogy with a dash­board that is avail­able for HR and man­age­ment teams to get an overview, which also in­ter­faces with a con­sul­tant. A team mem­ber anal­y­ses the data and pro­vides the best di­rec­tion to take within the con­text of the sit­u­a­tion,” says Sut­ton.

The app is based on a freemium model: some of its fea­tures are avail­able only to paid sub­scribers.

Sut­ton stresses that con­sent is a big part of the app and all data is anony­mous. “It’s been the most im­por­tant fea­ture of the con­struc­tion of the app — safe­guard­ing peo­ple’s in­for­ma­tion, which does not get used or sold in any way.

“Our of­fer­ing to com­pa­nies is to fa­cil­i­tate the well­be­ing of em­ploy­ees and help as­sist with pro­duc­tiv­ity, growth, suc­cess and in­no­va­tion. Our health hack fea­ture pro­vides so­lu­tions to is­sues we ex­pe­ri­ence on a day-to-day ba­sis like low moods, worry, anx­i­ety, feel­ing over­whelmed, and so on.”

* Names have been changed

★★★★ /5

Us­abil­ity ★★★★ /5

123Rf/di­nis Tolipov

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.