The workplace has gone through a sea-change since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when offices and employees were forced to adopt a remote style of work. It kicked off the Great Resignation, quiet quitting and chaotic working, in which employees take control of their work lives.
But three years on, as business largely trickles back to normal, employees are increasingly having to juggle a new burden: working over the weekends. While recent workplace developments have mostly favored flexibility and prioritizing employee well-being, a tight labor market and wide adoption of remote work technology have forced some to a work week that has no end.
On average, workers put in more hours on Saturdays and Sundays last year than in 2021, according to a report by ActivTrak, a workplace software company. Only 5% of all people surveyed worked through the weekend in 2022. Their time on the job increased by 18 minutes to an average of 6.6 hours.
But for some other industries, the number of weekend hours rose sharply. In the tech industry, the number of weekend hours soared 31% to 11.5 hours on average, while media workers put in 53% more time on the weekends, for an average of 10.7 hours.
ActivTrak’s report identifies employees of computer hardware companies and media businesses as having the biggest gains in weekend working hours in 2022. The tech industry has been particularly hard-hit by layoffs at companies like Amazon, Alphabet’s Google, Salesforce, and Twitter. Since the start of 2023, over 122,000 tech workers have been laid off from more than 400 companies, according to layoff tracker, Layoffs.fyi.
The report identifies two reasons for the weekend toil. First, mass layoffs, especially in tech, made it necessary for employees to pile on a greater workload to make up for the shortfall in headcount. Second, employees trying to escape virtual calls and meetings in the hybrid workplace are increasingly finding weekends to be the only time they can work free of distractions.
“As companies downsize and attempt to do more with less, it’s very possible that work is extending beyond the 5-day work week and into the weekends,” Gabriela Mauch, vice president of the productivity lab at ActivTrak, told Fortune. “We’re apt to see a lot more experimentation as companies begin to realize their approach to work must be uniquely suited to their business and their people.”
The report from ActivTrak looks at data collected from 134,000 employees in 2021 and 2022 to examine trends in productivity, technology, and worker well-being.
The option to work remotely has benefited workers by saving them hours of weekly commuting and boosting productivity. But hybrid work hasn’t been unanimously successful—some women have struggled to draw boundaries when on hybrid schedules and workers may miss out on factors that they desire in their professional lives such as autonomy and connectivity.
The report also highlights trends in the digital workplace, once touted as the “new normal,” that are becoming simply “normal” as employees adapted more permanently to the changes of the past few years.
“Over the last 3 years, flexibility has become significantly more acceptable and for some, this means opting for a shorter week-day and shifting part of the workload to the weekend,” Mauch said.
Even with greater flexibility in work style, employee well-being remains at risk. Burnout among American workers continued at an alarming rate of 89% in 2022. And while companies are being more proactive in helping their employees get the support they need, even high-level executives are grappling with similar struggles.
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