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Is the pandemic resulting in remote burnout?

What’s happening? Junior employees in consulting, law or financial services are facing burnout at a worrying rate due to longer hours and higher workloads in isolation caused by the pandemic. These sectors are known to have historically high levels of burnout, but the pandemic has exacerbated the issue: absence of teamwork, social interactions and fewer perks have been coupled with an influx of new work from the many businesses undergoing restructuring due to pandemic effects. This has concerned some about young employee retention in the future. (Consulting.us)

Money never sleeps, pal – This renewed focus on junior staff working conditions among some of the biggest, high-earning firms in professional services comes in direct response to reports from Goldman Sachs employees about their poor mental and physical health as a result of 95-hour working weeks.

Historically, as many veterans of the industry are eager to attest to, professional services such as banking, consultancy and legal work have always been highly competitive – and there is an expectation that personal sacrifices beget greater fortune and opportunity down the line.

Leisure time? In a pandemic? As noted by Consulting.us, however, the pandemic has changed a host of environmental factors that may have supported employees through such a prolonged, stressful period. Not only is there more work to do, but the circumstances junior employees are having to do it under are more taxing, without the typical benefits they’d be able to enjoy pre-pandemic.

For employers, having healthy, productive staff is an asset. Stanford University researchers suggest stress in the workplace costs the US economy roughly $190bn each year. And once employees are pushed past breaking point, businesses – no matter how big – will begin to deal with retention issues. The employees surveyed at Goldman Sachs reported that they were unlikely to continue at the firm past six months if conditions continued.

While in the past there may have been ways for workers and employers to reconcile these pressures, under these new remote conditions this is far more difficult.

Enter inclusion – Many may think of diversity and inclusion as focused on protecting minority groups, however, ideas of inclusivity are beneficial for working environments in their entirety, across the workforce. Simply providing mental health resources and setting healthy parameters for work can make junior employees feel like they have a safety net and support system.

Remote working provisions during the pandemic were initially a win on this front, particularly for workers needing more flexibility, but over the past year it has led to the development of poor work-life balance. For example, 74% of US working professionals have shown a preference for “workcations” in which they travel but continue to work remotely while on holiday as a result of remote-working mandates. To that end, Citigroup has recently made a series of reforms on remote-work culture to prevent fatigue. Actions like these will be more important if a greater degree of remote working persists and becomes the new normal.

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Sara Trett

Sustainability Editor

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