Some Say Working From Home Is Grinding Them Down

Dec 14, 2020
Originally published on December 14, 2020 8:09 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Working through the pandemic presents challenges for everyone. Some people working from home feel as though they are living at work. That's because the lines between work and home have blurred, and those remote workers are finding that they're working more hours and are more stressed than ever. Adedayo Akala reports.

ADEDAYO AKALA, BYLINE: Hillary loves her job. She's a technical writer and editor for a biotech company. Given the field she's in, she knew she'd be working longer hours. But she understands the importance of working at a place that makes drugs that treat coronavirus patients.

HILLARY: I'm grateful to my organization for keeping me employed. I am. And I'm glad to have a job. And I'm glad to have enough income so that I can help other people.

AKALA: Hillary doesn't want to use her last name for fear of jeopardizing her job and offending her colleagues. With the greater workload, she finds herself having to do other people's jobs to meet deadlines. And it's just a lot of juggling.

HILLARY: I just have a lot of sympathy for my colleagues who have young children at home, and I'm trying to be patient about that. But the workload has become very much harder for me because of these bottlenecks.

AKALA: Like a lot of other people, nine months into the pandemic, it's grinding her down.

HILLARY: I remember when I would work way back when before COVID. I'd say about once a month, I wouldn't have to work on a Friday at all just because I'd, like, already done all my work and I'd already put in enough hours.

AKALA: And she does miss those occasional Fridays where she'd tell herself...

HILLARY: I'm just going to go to a yoga class, you know, and then I'll start again on Monday.

AKALA: Now Hillary's working five days a week, oftentimes six. It's been tough for her recently, even before the pandemic. Her father passed away last year, so her older sister is taking care of their 86-year-old mother. And Hillary feels guilty. She's so busy, she can't do much to help.

HILLARY: I'd like to help, but I'm not helping. And I'm not supporting them in a way that I used to be able to.

AKALA: A lot of other people are working longer hours, too. The average workday has gotten longer during the pandemic by about an hour a day. That's according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. And some people feel not being in the office means they have to work extra hard to be seen. Swapna Mony started a new sales job in April in the food and beverage industry.

SWAPNA MONY: There is a pressure I feel we put on ourselves to be seen as performing, to be seen as meeting expectations, exceeding expectations while there isn't necessarily somebody interacting with you.

AKALA: She's aware of how many people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, so that fuels her.

MONY: I take that, and I channel that into working more to kind of prove to my company I'm really grateful to have a job and such a good job. So I end up putting more pressure on myself.

AKALA: Hillary, who works at the biotech company, says the longer hours are feeling relentless. She doesn't want the last chapter of her work life to be like this. She's 57 years old.

HILLARY: God help me. I do not want the last three to 10 years of my career to go out at this, like, horrible howl of nothingness. I'd like to go out on a high C - you know, (vocalizing) - so, you know, where I decide when I want to walk away.

AKALA: Hopefully over the next year or so, whenever the pandemic is finally behind us, people like Hillary can hit that high C and enjoy their jobs again. For NPR News, I'm Adedayo Akala.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRANZ FERDINAND'S "OUTSIDERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.