It’s Official: We’re Working Longer Hours and Attending More Meetings at Home

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As much as the shift to remote work has benefited working parents, new data shows that we’re working more from home. Sigh.

A study of 3.1 million workers by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that with the pandemic-induced switch to teleworking, the average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes in the weeks following quarantine lockdowns, and the number of meetings increased by 13 percent.

The study, published Monday, August 3, looked through millions of anonymous emails and calendar data from an unnamed tech provider, including over 21,000 companies in 16 large metropolitan cities worldwide over an eight-week period before and after local lockdowns. Though the data is skewed to this specific provider as well as the selected cities and companies, the sample size is large enough to present clear work patterns.

Remote work is generally preferable for working parents, typically allowing for a more flexible schedule and no commute, but if it feels like you’re doing more than you were pre-pandemic, it’s because you are. Another study by business growth corporation ZenBusiness found that 92 percent of workers are doing more than their traditional roles for their companies, as layoffs and furloughs leave companies short staffed.

And that doesn’t include all the tasks that parents are now tackling on the home front, from homeschooling to cleaning. Working moms are doing double the amount of chores as pre-lockdown. No wonder a study by the UK’s UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that working moms get only 2.6 uninterrupted work hours per day. To top it all off, working from home can make it hard to distinguish between work and family time when they occupy the same space, which can make it difficult to sign off for the day completely.

Jeffrey Polzer, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of the study, noted that longer workdays don’t necessarily mean people are working more hours. Though the number of meetings was up, the study found that the scheduled length of meetings actually decreased, by about 20 minutes per day on average. With employees taking care of loved ones at home, work hours don’t necessarily equate to hours spent working. Either way, whether the day is broken up by math lessons or doggie accident clean-ups, Polzer warns that longer work days are unsustainable.

“Is it working from home or living at work, or both?” Polzer asked The Washington Post. “Organizations are trying to figure out what the capacity is to handle this type of work. People will start burning out if we don’t rethink how they’re spending their time.”

And if organizations don’t figure it out, we’ll see ripple effects all throughout the workforce. Over a quarter of parents plan on taking a break or quitting their jobs entirely, and women say they are twice as likely as men to quit their jobs post-pandemic. Burnout is happening fast for working moms as back-to-school approaches, and employers’ decisions in the coming weeks will weigh heavily on the future of working motherhood altogether.



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