Remote work more stressful than previously thought, finds new research

Credit: Adobe Stock
Credit: Adobe Stock

Remote working is having a detrimental affect on employees, says a new study from the Kozminski University and SWPS University.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, social scientists collected data on the psychological condition of employees via an internet survey of 587 Polish men and women in the 21-66 age group. 

They found that nearly 90 percent of respondents switched to remote work after the pandemic started. Before March 2020, only every 10th respondent regularly worked remotely.

Dr. Piotr Pilch from the Department of Social Sciences of the Kozminski University said: “This summary is enough to realize how much of a challenge the transition from work in the office to working from home was for Polish employees.

“Twenty percent of the Polish employees we surveyed admitted that during the pandemic they did not have (and I suspect that they still don't) sufficiently comfortable conditions to work from home. For about 12 percent it was a challenge to simultaneously focus on work and balance it with the needs of their co-habitants.”

Pilch added that switching to remote work was not a problem for 38 percent  of the respondents, saying: “This group mostly consists of young employees who generally have fewer home responsibilities than their older colleagues. These respondents generally positively evaluate the transition to home office mode.”

The difficulties that some respondents experienced were associated primarily with a situation in which other household members also had to learn or work remotely. As a result, working adults had lower efficiency in everyday professional tasks. While one quarter of respondents said that they did not have a separate space to work at home, one-third replied that they worked in common rooms shared with other household members.

Dr. Kaja Prystupa-Rządca from the Kozminski University who specialises in issues related to the virtual work environment said: “Noise at home and sounds of renovations from the surrounding apartments made focussing on official duties difficult.”

Nearly 45 percent respondents shared the feeling that their working day was extended during the pandemic period, in some cases to 10-12 hours a day. Every second person noticed that they were working much more than before the pandemic. According to the researchers, there is a risk that we will also face the problem of overworking in the coming months.

Research also shows that during the pandemic, employers did not always provide adequate assistance to their employees. It turns out that in one third of the analysed cases, the employer did not provide additional electronic equipment, and 11 percent of respondents had difficulties performing work due to poor internet connection. Only 6 percent of people received support in the form of reimbursement for the costs of Internet access, water or heating.

Dr. Pilch said: “One in four employees could count on office furniture for their home office. In the context of the availability of IT tools and training, nearly 40% employees consider the employer's support to be insufficient.”

To ensure a high level of satisfaction from the duties performed, the researchers found that an employee must receive support from both the employing organization and direct supervisor.

But, Kozminski University’s Dr. Prystupa-Rządca said: “However, while working remotely during the pandemic, most of the respondents felt more supported by their supervisors than by the company as such. For employees, the most important things were emotional support and a sense of understanding their life situation.”

Researchers also found a disproportion in stress level. Agnieszka Zawadzka-Jabłonowska, a psychologist, work organisation and employee well-being expert and study co-author from the Kozminski University, says that women were more stressed by the realities of remote work than men.

She said: “We suspect that they had to perform a greater part of home duties, and higher stress could result from the difficulty of balancing remote work and family matters.”

She added that the tendency to worry about a previously unknown form of work dominated especially in smaller organizations, where remote work had not been practiced before.

She said: “Ground-level staff had a higher level of stress than people in managerial positions. Leaders control the rules of remote work, not the subordinates who must adapt to new realities and deal with an increasing number of home duties.”

According to the researchers, although remote work could be stressful due to unfamiliar technology and the lack of training of employees, the option of returning to the office would expose employees to the risk of coronavirus infection. (PAP)

Author: Mateusz Kominiarczuk

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