With files from Pragya Sehgal
High productivity is masking exhausted workforces globally, and the situation is worse in Canada, according to Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index.
The latest check-in with more than 31,000 global full-time employed or self-employed workers suggests that digital overload is real and it’s growing. In Canada, 47 per cent of workers report feeling exhausted during a typical workday, compared with the 39 per cent global average. The country’s stress levels are also higher than the global average, with more than 50 per cent of Canadian workers reporting feeling stressed.
While the report doesn’t elaborate why workers in Canada are having a tougher time coping with remote work and other changes to the workplace, Emma Williams, corporate vice-president of Microsoft office modern workplace transformations says she sees a lot of people trying to remain productive under challenging circumstances and forgetting to decompress at the start and end of each day.
“Self-assessed productivity has remained the same or higher for many employees but at a human cost,” she said during a briefing with reporters.
The index taps into 31 different markets, polling at least 1,000 workers from each one. Each market also represents a mix of work environments – remote vs non-remote, office settings vs non-office settings, and so on.
Williams says workers who have gone remote full-time have easily filled the extra time traditionally spent commuting to and work with – more work. The average Teams user sends 45 per cent more chat messages per week and 42 per cent more after-hours. Microsoft data also shows that workers feel compelled to respond to team chats quickly, and 50 per cent respond to these notifications within five minutes or less. The number of emails delivered globally in February 2021 versus February 2020 increased by 40.6 billion. Weekly meeting times have more than doubled.
Having the office just around the corner every day, combined with the fact that most people are glued to their phones 24/7, has made the separation of work and life nearly impossible. One of the top causes of rising stress levels among Canadian workers in Canada is the lack of separation between work and personal life, according to a Capterra survey. Out of the 1,012 employees it surveyed, 32 per cent of them reported rising stress levels, and nearly 45 per cent of them said it comes from that lack of separation.
Coupled with this digital overload is the looming threat – especially among IT teams managing budgets and dozens of workloads – that the next cheque for a cloud or managed service isn’t going to clear due to a crippled business.
Massive fires like the one that recently destroyed data centres in Strasbourg, France, add another layer of stress and anxiety among IT teams desperately trying to keep services alive in every sector. Dave Frederickson, executive vice-president of sales and strategic business solutions at Canadian solutions provider Long View Systems says he hasn’t seen this level of economic uncertainty since oil prices first plummeted nearly a decade ago.
While opportunities for MSPs like Long View are aplenty as governments and companies with budgets invest in digital transformation, MacDonald and his team have answered several phone calls from panicked customers over the past year seeking some assistance during a financial crisis.
“We’ve stepped up, and it looks like it’s going to pay dividends for us in the long term,” he said. “It’s also just the right thing to do.”
A physical toll
A separate survey from Citrix paints an equally concerning picture about the status of today’s workers. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents say their physical well-being is worse now than before the pandemic. Ten per cent say it’s much worse.
People’s mental state isn’t doing much better – 46 per cent of respondents say their mental wellbeing is worse now, and 11 per cent say it’s much worse.
“Employees and companies alike have realized that remote work styles can be productive when approached in the right way,” said Ed Rodriguez, Citrix Canada’s general manager. “Gone are the days that work is measured by a physical body present at an office each day and working a 9 to 5. Employees are looking for companies that put their well-being and experience first. They want the ability to choose where they work from and have the power to control their own schedules. Companies that fail to adapt to this new way of work will fall behind, while those that do will see more engaged employees that are motivated to succeed.”
A smaller group of workers say their well-being has actually improved over the past year: Twenty-one per cent of respondents suggest that their mental health has gotten better. A quarter of respondents also reported an improvement in their physical well-being.
Leaders are out of touch
Sixty-one per cent of leaders say they’re “thriving” right now — 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making authority. Business leaders surveyed by Microsoft were more likely to be millennials or Gen X, male, information workers, and “farther along in their careers.”
In contrast, according to the index, Gen Z, women, frontline workers, and those new to their careers reported struggling the most over the past year.
More than 40 per cent of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, with nearly half (46 per cent) planning to make a major pivot or career transition.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Kent Macdonald of Long View Systems. The quote is from Dave Frederickson, executive VP of sales & strategic business solutions at Long View Systems. IT World Canada apologizes for the error.