The virtual workspace isn’t going away. Here’s how WFH is affecting us — and how these changes could reshape the workforce as we know it.
These days, we’re all processing the consequences of an indisputable fact: the pandemic has forever changed the way we work.
For many American workers, a day “at the office” is very different than it was two years ago. New habits, workflows, tools, and dynamics are effecting us, whether we realize it or not. Now, scientists and researchers who’ve studied our pandemic work patterns are beginning to draw some conclusions about these effects and their long-term implications.
What happens to your brain when you take non-stop video call meetings? To find out, Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab asked 14 participants to take part in video meetings while wearing EEG caps.
First, participants partook in four 30-minute back-to-back meetings, then in four 30-minute meetings with 10-minute breaks in between, during which they meditated using the Headspace app. The findings revealed that breaks between meetings was associated with lower levels of beta waves—indicators of stress—while stress levels spiked between back-to-back meetings, when workers scrambled to prepare for the next onslaught of check-ins, updates, and peer-to-peer discussion.
Taking breaks between calls also resulted in more frontal alpha asymmetry, which is associated with engagement and the desire to share information with peers.
The study underscores what we already know: back-to-back digital meetings are unsustainable. An additional 2021 survey published by Microsoft revealed that 54% of respondents felt overworked, while 39% felt outright exhausted. Arguably, nonstop video meetings are increasing burnout rates and contributing to “TheBig Quit.”
To combat meeting exhaustion in the digitized workplace and retain critical talent, companies and employees should incorporate breaks between meetings as standard—and essential—practice.Most virtual conferencing software are equipped with tools that set scheduling defaults to shorten meetings, opening up “break” slots in between.
A recent survey from researchers in Naples, Italy found that 41% of work-from-home employees were experiencing lower back pain, along with a host of other musculoskeletal issues. “The home environment seems to be not adequate in the mobile worker population,” they wrote, “with an increased risk for mental health and musculoskeletal problems, particularly affecting the spine.”
It’s not just our musculoskeletal systems that suffer from a lack of work-from-home ergonomics. Staring at a screen can damage vision, and sitting for extended periods of time is known to cause blood clots in the legs. Another study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found the majority of participants reported weight gain, in part due to increased junk food intake and less time spent outdoors.
Without distinct action, modern work-from-home conditions risk crippling workers worldwide. Offices should consider incorporating WFH benefits that offer employees ergonomic workspace options like standing desks and office chairs. Benefits like stipends for gym memberships or fitness classes also go a long way to help support employee health from home. And don’t forget those breaks: the American Optometric Association, for instance, recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to view something that’s 20 feet away.
We’ve gotten used to rolling out of bed and beelining to the computer, or checking email on our phones before we even get out of bed. A lack of morning commute is a massive adjustment to a morning routine, and risks destroying an important part of the workday.
While it’s absence may feel like a huge blessing, the morning commute helps you wake up and offers an opportunity to reflect on your day before literally getting to work.
But not anymore. “We’re in this mode where the boundaries between work and home are dissolved and it’s all one big soup, which can lead to a constant state of part working, part taking care of personal life, part taking care of ourselves,” Charles Morris, a human resources director at Microsoft, recently said. Microsoft and other companies have created tools for a “virtual commute” that add tasks like “reflect”and suggestions for Headspace-guided meditation, in the hopes of again giving workers the ability to ease into the workday and decompress at the end of it.
The daily commute has always been a buffer between home and work life. Loss of it--along with other healthy routines and habits—are most certainly contributing to soaring rates of workplace burnout. A solution: employers should consider implementing “virtual commute” tools for staff—and workers should use them.
Many workers have felt less connected to their colleagues during the pandemic, as work-from-home mandates meant the end of rituals like grabbing coffee together and chatting around the proverbial water cooler. Simply put, human connection contributes to happiness, and data shows that a lack of it in the workplace is impacting us for the worse.
A Microsoft study of its own employees during lockdown concluded that “the shift to remote work caused the formal business groups and informal communities within Microsoft to become less interconnected and more siloed.” Remote work caused collaboration across workgroups to decline. Furthermore, the study found mandated remote work caused work groups to focus inward, increasing connections only within their groups.Organizational structure suffered and became “less dynamic,” and employees added fewer new collaborators and shed fewer old ones. In short: no water cooler talk makes for a stagnant, lonely, non-collaborative workplace.
Subscribe to our newsletter for regular insight and news
Current workforce realities such as competing job opportunities and The Great Resignation make Total Rewards programs vital for attracting and retaining talent. Here’s how companies can do it right.Read More >>
Over the last five years, there’s been an increasing focus on laws centered around digital protections and worker’s rights, specifically the “right to disconnect.”Read More >>
By downsizing or giving up office space altogether, companies can—and should—redirect money to their employees in meaningful ways. Here's how.Read More >>
As employers contend with the Great Resignation, the use of artificial intelligence for talent acquisition is more important than ever.Read More >>
No matter how scary the prospect, striving to achieve your career goals will always yield better results than staying stuck and afraid.Read More >>
When employees fail to understand or properly utilize important tech tools in the workplace, it can have far-reaching implications and may even impact an organization’s bottom line.Read More >>
AI recruitment tools--while incredibly useful--can also introduce bias. What can companies do to ensure they increase efficiency without harming equity?Read More >>
A range of approaches to designing and utilizing AI can actually help diversity hiring.Read More >>
We're trending towards longer and longer work days--but by embracing a decision-making ideology and a task management tool, we don't have to.Read More >>
Navigating a new job is hard--and managing its ups and downs as a new hire during a pandemic is arguably even harder.Read More >>
While few employees are running miles in combat boots, mentally training like the elite military unit may help us reclaim our brains from stress.Read More >>
The virtual workspace isn’t going away. Here’s how WFH is affecting us — and how these changes could reshape the workforce as we know it.Read More >>
Human Resources executives are central to the success of an organization, setting the tone for how employees can contribute and thrive. Here, a few industry leaders share their insights.Read More >>
Processing emotionally charged events can impact people in ways that are difficult to manage. What can be done to support them?Read More >>
From cobots that collaborate with humans to HoloLens, a wearable holographic computer, AI is no longer science fiction.Read More >>
As old paradigms fall by the wayside, how we shape corporate culture and do business altogether is transforming at breakneck speeds.Read More >>
Uniqueness of identification has grown and blossomed into a spectrum of diversity, challenging the way companies think about DEIB.Read More >>
A number of complex forces are steering people away from the workforce, but arguably the most common one is burnout.Read More >>
Of all the theories that aim to engender better work-life balance, the five-hour workday is one of the most compelling.Read More >>
Just because you say you're operating strategically doesn't mean your plan is strategic.Read More >>
Yes, “be yourself” is definitely sound advice--and these days, employers are known to tell their employees the same thing. But there are limits.Read More >>
DEIB programs are surging across the American workplace. Why are some employers still not taking action?Read More >>
It's not always easy to know when to prioritize speed vs. quality in business. There may be more than one right answer.Read More >>
Your words often don't have the impact you intend them to--which can be problematic, especially in the workplace.Read More >>
Giving and receiving valuable feedback isn't always an easy task. Here are some insights to help you along the way.Read More >>
Unlimited PTO sounds like a dream come true. Is it here to stay, or just the flavor of the week?Read More >>
Join us for a dynamic discussion with neurodiversity experts on the benefits of employing a diverse team.Read More >>
Our biases manifest everywhere--and even during our most celebrated and joyous traditions, they can leave an impact.Read More >>
Are we truly our most productive when we work five days a week? Recent studies suggest otherwise.Read More >>
For Pride Month 2021, Enspira interviewed two pioneers in the LGBTQ+ business community who continue to inspire change.Read More >>
Chances are we all know someone who's struggling with unspoken issues. Here's how to recognize it, thoughtfully reach out, and help.Read More >>
If we want to see real, sustainable change, we all must continue to acknowledge and celebrate diversity in the workplace.Read More >>
The raging pandemic has pushed people beyond reasonable limits, and has adversely affected women disproportionately.Read More >>
The world is facing monumental challenges in the time of COVID-19, widening existing gaps in racial and gender equity.Read More >>
It’s now more important than ever to ensure your organization has strong people manager capability and effectiveness.Read More >>
How inclusive is your organization? Simply checking the representation boxes and creating policies isn't enough.Read More >>
Providing experience-based expertise in platform selection, implementation, and integration of HR tech applications.
Engendering a progressive workplace culture by addressing DEIB in policies and practices for longterm sustainability.
Optimizing productivity through a comprehensive analysis of functions to match the right people with the right roles.
Building exceptional leadership through executive coaching, workshop modules, and practical applications for individuals and teams.
Devising a forward-thinking, equitable, and inclusive search experience for candidates and companies.
Elevating employee engagement and performance through foundational alignment of business and human purpose.
Creating innovative talent management strategies to help build and retain a world-class workforce.
Developing comprehensive employee engagement and retention strategies to improve productivity, reduce turnover, and foster innovation.
Identifying optimal combinations of benefits, compensation, rewards, and recognition to enhance employee engagement and performance.
Guiding organizations through complex and challenging evolutions to keep employees engaged throughout the journey.