Canadians are highly productive – but there's a cost

Burnout isn't the only aftermath of remote work

Canadians are highly productive – but there's a cost

Ask workers in Canada about powering through a busy day and they’ll tell you their productivity levels have been the same, if not higher, during the pandemic. But as Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index found, high productivity in these stressful times may be “masking an exhausted workforce”.

“Self-assessed productivity has remained the same or higher for many employees over the past year, but at a human cost,” Microsoft found. These include Canadian workers’ reluctance to pull away from work as well as their inability to grow their network of support amid lockdown.

Read more: Is it possible to separate work and personal life?

Burnout

Nearly half of Canadians feel exhausted at the end of their workday (47%) – a figure significantly higher than the global average of 39%. Meanwhile, a little over half of Canadians are also stressed, according to the study.

“The digital intensity of workers’ days has increased substantially, with the average number of meetings and chats steadily increasing since last year,” Microsoft researchers said, observing similar patterns across countries. “Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally and, aside from a holiday dip in December, continues to climb.”

“The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes,” they said. “And we’ve seen a 66% increase in the number of people working on documents.”

Read more: Fintech CEO Dan Price: ‘Always invest in people’

Isolation and groupthink

Burnout, however, isn’t the only aftermath of remote work. “The pandemic-driven isolation people feel in their personal lives is also happening at work,” researchers said.

“At the onset of the pandemic, our analysis shows that interactions with our close networks at work increased, while interactions with our distant networks diminished. This suggests that, as we shifted into lockdowns, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside,” they said.

“Put simply, companies became more siloed than they were before the pandemic. And while interactions with our close networks are still more frequent than they were before the pandemic, the trend shows even these close team interactions have started to diminish over time.”

When teams start to lose connections, they also stop innovating, observed Dr. Nancy Baym, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft. “It’s harder for new ideas to get in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility,” Dr. Baym said.

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