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It’s becoming easier to take advantage of workers’ time as the definition of the workplace shifts with the pandemic. Because of Zoom meetings and working from home, the workplace is becoming more casual, and it’s still up in the air whether or not the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. With the workplace, businesses should practice moderation. A workplace can and should engage in more casual practices without taking advantage of their workers.

According to a study out of Harvard Business School from 2020, during the pandemic, typical workday hours increased by 8.2%. The assumption that workers may be more productive may be wrong and could be explained by longer work hours. This indicates that there needs to be a greater emphasis on keeping work and home spaces distinct from one another. For those working from home, it’s become difficult to separate the two. It’s hard to switch off from work mode when you don’t have a clear boundary between that and one’s home life.

Working from home comes with some mental health drawbacks. An online survey done by the American Psychological Association in 2021 revealed that the bulk of those working from home experienced isolation, loneliness, as well as trouble with the boundary between home life and work. It seems like the blurred lines between one’s personal life and work is affecting sleep as well. A survey of 2,000 people in 2020 who were working from home discovered that a whopping 70% of these workers have endured a disruption of their typical sleep schedule. Creating physical boundaries between work and home, such as an enclosed office space that is separate from family or sleeping spaces, could be incredibly beneficial in rectifying sleep schedules. When it comes to symptoms of isolation and loneliness, workers should try to meet with others through virtual engagement or in outdoor settings.

Zoom meetings and other virtual meeting spaces are contributing to the growing casual atmosphere of the workplace. It has been asserted that these practices are responsible for the decrease in boundaries between workers. When in a meeting, you can see into someone’s home and into their personal space. This is a boundary that cannot be crossed in a physical workplace. Using backgrounds or the green screen feature on Zoom can mitigate this issue.

To be clear, there’s no issue with small adjustments that make the workplace more comfortable for workers and still increase productivity. Things like casual workplace attire can be a major benefit. It is especially beneficial for female employees who face far more unrealistic appearance expectations than their male counterparts. Additionally, online workspaces eliminate long and frustrating commutes that workers do not enjoy.

Companies can work and have worked to support their employees’ mental health in many ways. For example, digital therapeutics programs can be considered as additions to employees’ benefits packages. These platforms offer mental health services for employees. Another action could be putting limits on hours worked at home and creating an end to the online work day where supervisors and employees stop sending emails or making calls. It’s up to individual companies and businesses to make these adjustments in order to support their workers if they want to sustain their workplace.

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