APAC workers are struggling with burnout and COVID-19 stress

workers burnout
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom | Bigstock.com

Workers in Asia Pacific are facing increased burnout as they struggle to keep work time and personal time separate, and all that whilst trying not to catch the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report.

On average, the study says, close to one third of workers in Asia Pacific cited increased rates of burnout over the past six months, with the lack of separation between work duties and personal obligations as negatively impacting their wellbeing.

Surveying over 6,000 information and first-line workers across eight countries globally including Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, the study found that Singapore (37%) and India (29%) were the top two countries in the region with workers facing increased burnout. In addition, close to 34% of Asia-Pacific respondents cited worry about contracting COVID-19, due to the lack of tech or protective equipment provided by businesses to effectively socially distance, resulting in increased stress levels.

Key findings from the research include:

1.  The pandemic increased burnout at work — in some countries more than others

In Asia Pacific, 29% of respondents cited that the pandemic has increased their sense of burnout at work. However, the research showed that everyone is experiencing this differently. For instance, 37% of workers in Singapore are experiencing higher rates of burnout than those in Australia, India and Japan. While burnout can be attributed to many factors, the chart below explores how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout. For example, workers in Australia saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams at 45%, with a medium increase in burnout while workers in Germany saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout.

workers burnout microsoft study

2. Causes of workplace stress differ for first-line and remote workers

The report also revealed that the top stressor shared globally was worry about contracting COVID-19, followed by lack of separation between work and life, feeling disconnected from co-workers, and unmanageable workload or hours. In Asia, the study found that over 34% of workers have not been provided the tech or protective equipment they need to effectively socially distance by their company, resulting to increased stress levels. This was higher than the global average by four percentage points. In addition, among the stressors reported by remote workers, the lack of separation between work and life and feeling disconnected from coworkers ranked highest.  

Countries across Asia also had cited differing factors contributing to work stress. In Australia and Singapore, the lack of separation between work and life was the top stressor with 24% and 31% respectively, with the feeling of isolation coming closely behind at 22% and 28%. However, in countries such as India and Japan, 42% and 26% respectively cited the inability to socially distance and the worry about contracting COVID-19 while on the job as a top stressor.

3. Six months in, there are more communications and fewer boundaries

Having identified lack of separation between work and life, along with unmanageable work hours, as top workplace stressors, Microsoft looked at usage patterns in Teams for more insight.

Data showed that globally, even six months past the first work-from-home orders, people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. As people adjusted to remote working, after hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased.

4. The lack of commute may be hurting, not helping, productivity for remote workers

Commuting helps maintain work-life boundaries, and worker’s productivity and wellbeing. According to a 2017 study, a digital assistant used chat conversations featuring task- and emotion-based questions to help participants prepare and detach from work through the day. The study found that 6 in 10 people (61%) globally felt they were more productive when the digital assistant helped them ramp up to and down from work. On average, productivity increased between 12 and 15%.

5. Meditation helps

Of those surveyed in Asia, 73% said meditation could help decrease their work-related stress. External research backs this up – consistent meditation with Headspace can decrease stress and burnout and improve your ability to react to negative feedback.

Microsoft says its partnership with Headspace will offer workers the ability to schedule ad hoc or recurring time for mindfulness breaks anytime — before a big meeting or to find focus needed to start on an important project.

You can read the full research here.

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