Working from Home: ePresenteeism & Employee Burnout

New research reveals that three in five (58%) HR managers fear that the mental health impact of working from home due to Coronavirus is so great that they will lose staff, who could be forced to take time out of work due to burnout.

The research, commissioned by LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network,  in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, also found that more than half (54%) of HR managers think mental health issues such as anxiety, burnout, isolation and loneliness have become more prevalent amongst employees in their company due to the impact of coronavirus on the way we work, and 56% fear lower team morale.

Key takeaways:

  • More than half of HR professionals think mental health issues have become more prevalent amongst employees due to COVID-19
  • Four in five agree that the extended period of working from home has encouraged a culture of ‘ePresenteeism’
  • UK workers who are currently working from home are clocking up an extra 28 hours of monthly overtime since the lockdown
  • But promisingly, four in five HR managers say they have the right skill set, knowledge, and tools to support employees
  • LinkedIn has partnered with The Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to reach out for support

The findings show that four in five (79%) think that the extended period of remote working has encouraged a culture dubbed ‘ePresenteeism’, meaning employees feel that they should be online and available as much as possible even if out of hours, or if they are unwell. Three quarters (75%) feel that ‘ePresenteeism’ has the potential to negatively impact employees’ mental health by causing additional stress, burnout, and anxiety.

Following an increase in conversations among its members about mental health and working from home, LinkedIn has partnered with The Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to reach out for support.

Employees feel overworked and overwhelmed

LinkedIn also surveyed office workers on their response to working from home since COVID-19. The majority (86%) say remote working is having a negative impact on their health as they feel the need to prove to bosses that they are working hard and deserve to keep their jobs. On average, those that are working from home are clocking up an extra 28 hours of monthly overtime since the lockdown – equating to nearly four days’ work.

As a result, nearly a third (31%) say they are now sleeping badly, 30% have experienced rising anxiety and 24% admit their mental health is suffering.

But despite the struggles of working from home full time, two in five (44%) have reported that they feel more connected to their family. More than half (54%) can also see the benefits that come with working from home and would like their employer to give them the option to do so more often when the lockdown is over.

HR managers feel they have the right skill set to support employee mental health

While the sudden, enforced working from home restrictions are having a negative impact on mental health for many employees, HR managers are well equipped to support them. Four in five (82%) feel that if an employee were to open up to them about their mental health problems while working from home, they feel confident they have the right skill set, knowledge, and tools to support them.

Employers are already taking action

Organizations are already taking steps to combat mental health and the side effects of ‘ePresenteeism’ occurring during the extended working from home period caused by COVID-19:

  • 34% have introduced additional private mental health support (e.g. private healthcare)
  • 44% have introduced professional mental health support
  • 33% have enforced working hours or banned out of hours emails
  • 36% have introduced additional mental or physical training sessions (e.g. yoga, meditation)
  • 33% have introduced additional holiday, sabbaticals and flexible working hours

Promisingly, more than half (57%) of HR managers say that companies and senior leaders take employee mental health seriously.

Senior HR Director at LinkedIn, Lisa Finnegan, says:

Covid-19 has impacted how we all work, not least those heroes on the frontline. Whilst it is a very different set of challenges, for those of us who are fortunate enough to work from home, we are seeing the impact this is having on our mental health.

This topic is at the heart of the surge in conversations on LinkedIn at the moment – which have increased 55% amongst connections from March 2019 to March 2020. I’ve shared my own experiences with burnout and mental health on LinkedIn – both as a manager and employee – and encourage others to do the same to open up the conversation and help others going through the same thing to feel less alone.

Chris O’Sullivan from the Mental Health Foundation urges people to take action now to avoid burnout:

Burnout, which is caused by chronic workplace stress, is a modern phenomenon that poses a huge risk to our physical and mental health.  People working from home during these unprecedented times are at a greater risk of burnout due to the high stakes environment we find ourselves in both globally and personally. We cannot have the same business-as-usual expectations on ourselves or of our employees – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time, look after children at home and keep up our other responsibilities.

While there are many difficulties as a result of this situation, it’s encouraging to see that the research also shows that many of us enjoy the benefits of having more time at home – which they are using to connect with family, exercise, and eat well. It’s important to find time to decompress, set up a routine, and manage expectations of yourself and others to help get on top of your workload and stress levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or speak to a professional about how to get back on track.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.