The pandemic has pushed many of us to work incessant hours as the line between work-life balance blurs further as we shift to remote. The recent incident when Jonny Frostick had a heart attack has started the conversation going about the toxic work culture that has come about during this pandemic.
Frolick said, “when he realized he was having a heart attack, the first thing that went through his mind was: “F*** I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow; this isn’t convenient.” Then he thought about funding for a project, his will, and finally, his wife. The 45-year-old HSBC contractor chronicled his near-death experience on LinkedIn that has gained momentum on the subject.
According to Harvard Business School, an analysis done on the number of emails and meetings of 3.1 million people in 16 cities across the world found that the average workday increased by 8.2 per cent—or 48.5 minutes—during the pandemic’s early weeks that has since dropped by a minor fraction. Employees also participated in more meetings, though for less time than they did before COVID-19.
“There is a general sense that we never stop being in front of Zoom or interacting,” said Raffaella Sadun, Professor of Business Administration in the HBS Strategy Unit. “It’s very taxing, to be honest.”
This is a very toxic work culture that needs to be addressed immediately. As Managers and employees, there are several ways we can work on this to obtain a good work-life balance that will keep us well-rested and also help us perform better at work without experiencing burnout every second week.
What you could do as a Manager or Leader
As we are working in very different circumstances, we must take the time to prioritize our tasks. As leaders, we should start by checking our goals. If we do not meet those given goals or sales targets, we need to check why that did not happen; was it because the employee did not perform well? Was it because the market is currently down due to the pandemic? If it is the latter, we cannot push our team to work overtime to contact more people; instead, we need to develop better solutions to drive our business.
Another critical factor is to discuss guidelines and switch off timings for team members.
Huda Idrees, the Chief Executive Officer of Dot Health, a Toronto-based technology startup, confirmed that her 15 employees are working, on average, 12-hour days, up from 9 hours pre-pandemic. “We’re at our computers very early because there’s no commute time,” she said. “And because no one is going out in the evenings, we’re also always there.”
The big problem that we face is that there is no escape. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, people feel like they have no legitimate excuse for being unavailable. This is something that needs to be touched upon. Discuss the timings your employees would like to work, if it’s 9 am-6 pm then hold them to it but after 6 pm let them de-stress, cool off with a nice hot shower and have dinner with their families. As a leader, you are also in dire need of that downtime to relax and give yourself a break.
“We have been brainwashed for [hundreds of] years to believe that what gives us all our value is hard work and long hours,” said Celeste Headlee, American Journalist. “When your work is just in the other room, there’s a temptation to spend more time at your desk to try to ‘get ahead.’ But if you’re not taking breaks, you’re likely not going to be as sharp or productive as you could be.”
In conclusion, be a model that your employees can look up to and follow. Make your expectations known to your team, and do your best to be an example of that behaviour, even if it includes turning off your visible availability on platforms like Slack to take time off that you need to lay back and relax. And most importantly, take your vacation time; you deserve it!