The corona pandemic changed our workload and the ways of working

08.12.2020 | News


Akava's research think tank Akava Works' study examined the effects of COVID-19 on the working lives of senior salaried employees. The research material was compiled in September and was answered by 14,400 Akava members from 32 Akava member organizations. The request to participate in the study went to about every sixth member of YTY.

Before the onset of the corona pandemic, 45% of respondents did not work remotely at all. Six per cent of Akava members worked remotely at least 3-4 days a week, and there were only a few Akava members who did only remote work.

By September 2020, only one in four didn't work remotely at all and a third worked exclusively or almost exclusively remotely. The most common way of working among the members of Akava was to combine remote work and face-to-face work.

The increase in the number of remote workers was greatest in industrial sectors, with the exception of the information technology industry, where working remotely was common compared to other sectors even before the onset of the corona pandemic.

The increase in the number of remote workers was lowest in the transport, tourism and accommodation sectors. Yet even in this field, 70 per cent of Akava members did at least part of their work remotely. The least remote work, yet more than before the onset of the corona pandemic, was done in education, social services and rehabilitation and health services.

There are differences in the cognitive workload

Significant differences in changes in cognitive workload (e.g. a fast work pace, multi-tasking, and disruptive interruptions) were observed between different industries.

In some industries, the workload increased during the corona pandemic, and in some, a significant decrease in workload was observed. The workload increased, especially in the education, social work and rehabilitation and health services sectors. The load decreased the most in the transport, tourism, and accommodation sectors. The fewest changes were in IT service sectors.

The reduction in workload is not an unequivocally positive finding. It may also be the result of the difficult economic situation in the industry, i.e. the reduction in the amount of work.

For those respondents whose workload remained unchanged, the cognitive workload decreased, especially for them whose number of remote working days had increased since the beginning of last year. Of the respondents who had a higher number of weekly remote working days at the time of the survey than before the onset of the corona pandemic, 42% felt a reduction in workload. Those who did not see an increase the number of remote working days accounted for only 12%.

A significant observation for the future of working life was that a decrease in the cognitive workload was seen especially in those who had changed their work habits due to the increase in remote working.

The finding encourages consideration of whether increasing remote working would be a way to reduce the cognitive workload that has become more common in recent years, especially in expert work.

On the other hand, the increase in remote working has also brought with it a burden due to the lack of social interaction. Choosing to only work remotely is therefore unlikely to promote well-being at work. It is also clear that remote work is better suited to some sectors than to others.

The results of the survey suggest that the best solution for well-being at work is the flexible combination of remote work and face-to-face work, taking into account the specific features of the work.

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