A recent Microsoft study found that remote staff work nearly one hour more per day than those who work in-office. As good as it may sound to employers, the additional hours per week do not yield a positive net benefit. In fact, rather than leaving the $456 billion company proud of its dedicated workforce, it left it warning other businesses of its findings.
What sounds like a good deal for employers is actually bad news for business. The additional hours per week that staff are putting in of their own volition, which add up to extra weeks per year, come at a cost many wouldn't suspect. There are three key reasons why this trend is troubling.
More time doesn't equate to higher production. While Elon Musk has cracked the code, using the 85% rule to increase productivity with less energy, many salaried remote staff working extra hours are not necessarily getting any more work done. While people might work more hours, employers aren't getting anything extra for this work. It just means that employees aren't working as efficiently during the workday.
According to Microsoft's study, remote workers are increasingly keeping asynchronous schedules. In other words, remote work leads to staff working more random hours at night, blurring the lines between work and life, with working hours encroaching well past five o'clock.
While more hours at the (home) office should lend to more overlapping hours with colleagues, the reality is that it doesn't. Instead, it leads to working more random hours outside of standard business hours, decreasing the overlap, and decreasing a team's ability to collaborate in real time. In return, productivity is stalled as colleagues wait on one another and projects can take longer to complete.
An increasing divide of working hours creates a further disconnect between colleagues. When staff do jump on a video call, it makes it more difficult to have the one thing the best Zoom calls have.
Microsoft discovered that what incited the additional working hours was the ability for its staff to set their own schedules. As good as it might sound to allow staff to set their own schedules, and work at the times that work best for them, it tends to lead to employees working more hours. And when we work more hours, that leaves fewer hours for ourselves.
The gray area between work and personal life already gets murkier when your home becomes your office, and many people struggle to ignore incoming emails or slack messages. Many employees are easily (and perhaps begrudgingly) summoned to work at any given moment -- during dinner, at bedtime, and worse, during the middle of what was a good night's sleep.
The result, not surprisingly, is burnout. While the most effective Great Resignation strategy surprisingly says that to avoid burnout, people need to get closer to their job -- and the "why" behind their reason to do it. Working more hours to compensate for decreased productivity throughout the day is not the same thing.
People need to be able to separate work from life. Those who don't end up suffering from burnout. Employee burnout burns businesses -- leading to lower quality of work, lower productivity, and increased employee turnover.