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WFH: How the global pandemic led to a rise in burnouts

Feeling burnt out? Don't worry you are not alone. Even with just having hit the first month of 2021, and the fresh start the new year (supposedly) promises, particularly after the harrowing year that was 2020... nothing can get worse right? But burnouts are hitting the Australian workforce like never before.

Research done by Asana is showing that the Australian workforce is experiencing a surge in burnouts after the global pandemic hit our shores last year. The global study commissioned by the work management app Asana on 13,000 professional workers found that 77% of Australians and New Zealanders surveyed felt burnt out in 2020. The workers reporting higher rates than the global average. The findings highlighted concerns about remote work and the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health.

Whereas companies quick turnaround to remote work saw them stepping up and adapting, workers are citing the "work about work", the sheer volume of meetings, along with chasing up coworkers for input, as well as too much to do, as top reasons for unproductivity. With 158 hours spent in unnecessary meetings, it is not hard to see why the workforce is struggling to cope with the shift.

The shift to working from home and long hours have also seen workers struggling to disconnect from work with 3-4 workers reporting issues with this. The average overtime nearly doubling from 236 hours in 2019 to 436 in 2020. Even with the near doubling of overtime work, 26% still reported missing 1 in 4 deadlines.

Another finding was the increase of "imposter syndrome" - with 2 in 3 workers reported self-doubt in their talent and ability to do the work they were hired to do. Especially affecting those hired during the pandemic.

The new work from home recommendation that was implemented early last year revolutionised the way we look at work, it came with the promise of less commuting times, more time spent with family, as well as relief from the stress of modern workplaces. But with only 15% of workers reporting that they feel "completely heard" by their company it is clear that companies still have a long way to go.

While the Asana report doesn't specify the impact on entrepreneurs and startups, there is reason to believe that this industry would be especially affected as entrepreneurs statistically have a higher chance to be impacted by mental health issues and burnouts. With entrepreneurs being two times more likely to suffer from depression and experiencing isolation. With the startup community already being at risk the added impacts of COVID-19 with lockdowns, "work around work", and too many virtual meetings, the pandemic has only exaggerated the issue.

With the findings from Asana highlighting the impact on the workforce, companies will have to continue to play catch up to the new realities of work in 2021. They will have to prioritise the new challenges facing the company as well as employee wellbeing and mental health. Employers offering flexibility, whether in work hours or where they base their teams will be key. Yet despite the high number of workers feeling burnt out, 57% of the ANZ workers, well above the global average, reported feeling optimistic about the year ahead. And with seeing how agile and adaptable companies have been in the unprecedented year that was 2020, we have no doubt that they will rise to this challenge.


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