The outbreak of the still ongoing pandemic occurred a year ago. Back then remote working or teleworking was allegedly the ideal solution for our protection from Covid-19 infection. Office workload was continued from home. However, one year on, the perception has changed, sensibly. Mental exhaustion or the so-called burnt-out syndrome has taken its toll, to a increasing extent, to a growing number of employees. As of late, the worrying occurrence of the burnt-out syndrome has prompted specialists to link the syndrome to work from home. Research studies have already been published internationally. As for the specific, national-level research, such an endeavor is also in progress. With details on that, here is psychologist and pedagogue Dragos Iliescu.
"Statistical data are mainly provided by the focus groups created at the University of Bucharest and the Western University in Timisoara, in the field of occupational health, especially targeting the issue of the workplace stress. Figures have literally shot up, just as expected, actually. As for the burnt-out syndrome, it is not caused by overworking, just as we have thought so far. Apparently, we don't seem to work too hard at the time of the pandemic since we spend most of the time at home, schoolchildren are a case in point. Notwithstanding, exhaustion is not caused by work alone, that is common knowledge already, but by other issues, which are rather circumstantial. And what leads up to the burnt-out syndrome is not necessarily stress as such, but the prolonged or chronic stress. Unfortunately, chronic stress alters people and these days we're speaking about chronic stress, it is about those things we do constantly and which sometimes entail excessive work, or emotional or cognitive demands and suchlike. They alter you if they get chronic. "
Scientific studies on occupational stress have revealed that people perceive they work more, even when at home. The workload has even increased by 40%, or thereabouts. We do not know, objectively, if that's how things are, actually, or whether the perception we have on that is purely subjective. Yet in the long run, perception really matters in this case, since people react according to their own perception of events.
« In earnest, the boundaries between private life and life at work have become completely fuzzy. You have the feeling you work day in day out, with no break. You stop for a while to grab a bite or cook for the children, then you get back to work. Quite a few people go have been going through that, you feel you work harder and the balance simply breaks, between the family and the professional life. And that usually goes with the sense of insecurity caused by the pandemic, since you don't know what is going to happen. All these factors are stressors and, given that they do not disappear so that you may have time to recover, they become extremely harmful. "
Boundaries separating private from professional life no longer exist, and that has become something obvious for specialists as well. Petru Pacuraru is a Human Resources expert offering courses taught by the HPDI professional training company. Company manager Pacuraru tells us how his clients have described what they go through, since they are employees working from home.
« In plain language, that means 'I didn't even realize the day was over', 'What I saw was light, and then dark', I didn't get up from my chair for four hours, I didn't have a lunch break.'. 'The pressure I feel is constant, I cannot get rid of it even at the weekend. I have a headache, I am insomniac and I put on weight.' (...) The burnt-out syndrome comes with a whole package of nasty things, also depriving you of having a better communication and of the time you may spend with your nearest and dearest. I think it is surprising and counterintuitive. We thought working from home was supposed to help us, but in fact it deprives you of a great number of things if you're not that keen on separating the professional from the private sphere of your life."
Children are also affected by exhaustion because of the online schooling and the prolonged exposure to digital screens. They have the usual symptoms of this condition and the cause of their exhaustion is the same as in the case of their parents. Nevertheless, were we to speak about a specific trait of children's exhaustion, it is caused by the fact that stressors are school and the lack of socializing with friends. In such a case, parents need to seek specialized help and try to be as close to their children as possible, through communication and understanding. Actually, the mechanisms of efficiently managing such a mental condition ought to be developed for youngsters but also for adults since it will not disappear too soon, since remote working will not stop once the pandemic has stopped. And why is that?
"Broadly speaking, around 20 per cent of the employees across Romania perform remote working. Yet in the big cities, since there is not very much industry and employees work in offices, most of them, teleworking touches around 50%. For instance, we work with people employed in the banking system, where 80% of the employees perform teleworking. In the IT sector, such a ratio reaches 90 %. So it is clear that in the coming years, three to five years, we will have a hybrid working system made of remote working and working at the office. So my intimation is that, in the years to come, we shall succeed to manage the burnt-out syndrome that goes with remote working. "