A year on from our first national lockdown, it appears we are working more hours for less money, says Frog Recruitment’s general manager Shannon Barlow
Working longer for less is a hangover from the new way people had to learn to work during the lockdowns. It has serious implications for employees’ mental health and burnout and can lead to resentment towards their job.
In a recent Frog Recruitment poll, nearly half (46.3%) of the 1,000 respondents reported working more hours than they did prior to COVID. Of those, two-thirds added they weren’t being paid for those extra hours.
As much of the country is yo-yo-ing in and out of lockdowns this year, employees have had to adapt and re-adapt to an ever-changing work environment. The pandemic has led to an increase in burnout, with people working longer hours and the working-from-home situation which often blurs the line between home life and work.
Last year was extraordinary in many ways and while it could have been acceptable at that time to have your people work longer hours, this should not be the status quo. The main risk right now is that some employees have maintained these hours, and employers may not be aware of this, or worse, are taking for granted their overtime.
Not being paid for work hours can also lead to resentment and a loss of trust towards a management or leadership team.
There is no doubt that this scenario can lead to employees reconsidering their role and value within a company. We have seen many people resign for exactly this reason.
That’s not to say that all the responsibility lies with the employer. In many cases employees are not being forced to work extra hours, but in working from home they may find themselves staying logged in longer and more often, especially with increased pressure to perform.
The solution to managing these new pressures on employees is three-fold. It involves employers:
- understanding the risk to the company of losing their A team
- checking in with employees regularly about their workload, especially important when people are increasingly working remotely
- creating a workforce plan
The labour market is already improving since Covid emerged but this has resulted in many industries again experiencing skills shortages.
Add in candidate hesitancy, with one out of five job seekers reluctant to move if offered a new job, the result is challenges in securing quality talent. It’s now even more important to look after your top employees.
A recent survey by Harvard Business School of 610 CEOs estimates that typical mid-level managers need to be on the job for 6.2 months for the company to earn back its investment on that hire.
The cost of losing an A player and bringing on a new employee costs more than just time and money. It also means lost productivity, increased training and resources, integration issues and reduced efficiency. We estimate it to be around 3.5 times their salary, which is a huge investment.
My message to employers is to recognise your employees for their hard work and loyalty – look after your people.
The matters of mental health and workload are often difficult to assess, especially with so many people working remotely and flexibly.
It’s become essential to check in regularly with your employees and ask them how they’re tracking, what work hours are they keeping, especially in these times of high stress.
Finally, I recommend creating a ‘roadmap’ – a workforce plan that outlines what they need to get their workload back to regular service.
If the workload is becoming unmanageable, work with employees to bring back balance. Often work isn’t about the number of hours put in, it’s about what your expectations are of your team as a manager. These could well have moved since Covid appeared and may include changes in IT, systems and processes.
To create boundaries between home life and work, some businesses have implemented new policies such as a ‘no after-hours work email’ rule.
While it might be difficult right now for some companies to get back to ‘normal’, we encourage transparency and honesty throughout the process.
For employers, acknowledge how much work has been put in and any roadblocks, as well as creating a plan with a clear timeline and steps for staff to get back to a normal workload. If this isn’t realistic over time, look at investing in more resources to lessen the burden on the employee.
This will make them feel appreciated and show them they are a priority for their employer.