People are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. After-hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased by a whopping 69%.

More than six months into the COVID-19 global crisis, and the impact on employees globally, as well as in APAC, is starting to emerge into worrying patterns. 

Based on Microsoft Teams activity between February and August 2020, a 55% increase has been found in the number of meetings and calls per week. Thus, people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. After-hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased by a whopping 69%.

Perhaps more interestingly, the share of Teams users sending those chats after hours has more than doubled. Put another way, there is a whole group of people who never touched a keyboard after 5pm before the pandemic—now, they do.

As a consequence, workers in Asia Pacific are facing increased burnout due to lack of separation between work and personal life as well as worry of contracting COVID-19, according to Microsoft's latest Work Trend Index report. On average, close to one third of workers in Asia Pacific cited increased rates of burnout over the past six months, with the lack of separation between work duties and personal obligations as negatively impacting their wellbeing.

Singapore tops APAC in burnt-out workers 

Surveying over 6,000 information and first-line workers across eight countries globally including Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, the study found that Singapore and India were the top two countries in the region with workers facing increased burnout, at 37% and 29% respectively.

In addition, close to 34% of Asia Pacific respondents cited worry about contracting COVID-19, due to the lack of tech or protective equipment provided by businesses to effectively socially distance, resulting in increased stress levels.

While burnout can be attributed to many factors, the chart below explores how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout. For example, workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams at 45%, with a medium increase in burnout while workers in Germany saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout.

singapore burnout

No commute may be hurting, not helping, productivity

Those of us who feel especially exhausted after a long day of remote work are far from alone. In Microsoft's study, one third of remote workers said the lack of separation between work and life is negatively impacting their wellbeing. Studies from the Microsoft Research group show how the once-dreaded commute actually helped maintain work-life boundaries—and our productivity and wellbeing along with them.

“Commutes provide blocks of uninterrupted time for mentally transitioning to and from work, an important aspect of wellbeing and productivity. People will say, ‘I’m happy I don’t have to commute anymore. I’m saving time.’ But without a routine for ramping up for work and then winding down, we’re emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.”

– Shamsi Iqbal, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

So what can help? Of those surveyed, seven in 10 people (70%) said meditation could help decrease their work-related stress. This number increased to 83% for those managing childcare or homeschooling. Research backs this up – consistent meditation can decrease stress and burnout and improve our ability to react to negative feedback. 

All images / Microsoft

Human Resources Online is on Telegram! Follow us @humanresourcesonline or click here for all the latest weekly HR and manpower news from around the region.