The theme of 2021 is waking up after seven to eight hours of sleep, and just feeling like I've been hit by a bus.
Like I remember in college I took a yoga class and it was like 7 am on a Tuesday.
And our teacher always told us, like if there's genuinely a morning where your body's like hey, don't do it.
Don't do it, honey.
But then I'm like, what if your body's saying don't do it honey every day.
And that's, I guess why I seeing a psychiatrist.
- [Julia] Katherine is a sales executive at a tech firm in San Francisco.
Like many office workers her job has become completely remote since the beginning of the pandemic.
- The pandemic changed everything for me.
I went from being someone who really, really valued you know, putting everything into my work, giving it my all.
Suddenly I was at home with two times the amount of work working insane hours.
My mental health was crumbling and I just quickly hit a wall where I realized I just couldn't put in the same amount into my job as I had been before.
I cannot believe this is the same human form and the same body that used to wake up at 5:45, drive to the train station, get on the 6:16 train, go to the gym at 7:00 a.m. and then start work at eight.
Like, who was she?
Where did she go?
- COVID up-ended the working landscape for most Americans many were laid off or furloughed some forced to work under dangerous conditions.
But if you were one of the lucky ones you had a job that could go remote.
And it's this shift that experts expect to continue even after the pandemic subsides.
- It's estimated that about 5% of office employees work remotely before 2020.
A number of that significantly increased during the pandemic and is expected to settle at about 20% to 30% for the foreseeable future.
These jobs are most likely to be white collar computer-based office jobs that require a college degree.
- While a majority of these workers report that they want to continue working from home.
There are some pitfalls to the practice especially for those who tend to make career achievement a pillar of their identity.
- So I'm going to tell you how to actually make money like some good, good things you can do as a kid or a teen actually more as a teen that you can do to make money.
And my first possible way to get money would definitely be tutoring.
- [Katherine] I was an extremely type A, overachiever perfectionist, nerd, stereotype.
I was obsessed with grades and test scores and getting into a good college.
- Got through testing, I got through my grades teacher recs were no problem for me because I ended up being voted teacher's pet for my like senior pop polls, just not because I'm like a kiss ass.
I just naturally like to build like personal relationships with teachers.
- I was just so myopic and just getting into that perfect college experience that I wanted to have.
That that was kind of the only thing that was in my line of sight my senior year, or, I mean, I graduated in three years so not really my senior year, but my senior year tech just became the field that I ended up getting the most interviews with.
What I liked about the job was how sort of achievement oriented it was.
You had a very neat structure around you.
Okay, so it's five and I'm about to leave the office.
But I also think that there is a happy hour downstairs.
My idea of success was less, the salary and more so the title, the elitism, the prestige.
- [Bob] We know that Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, those are three major tech companies, they are now strongly recommending their employees work from home.
- [Katherine] Early on in the pandemic, I was living in an apartment in San Francisco with a couple of roommates trying to do the work from home thing there, quickly became very difficult being that San Francisco apartments, just not enough space to have a desk, have my own working environment, so we are constantly on top of each other.
We all mutually decided to end our lease and move our separate ways.
I ended up coming back to my parents' house and moving in with them, into my childhood bedroom, and so that's where I do all my work now.
- [Julia] Catherine's not alone.
31% of young people relocated during the pandemic, mostly to either be with friends or family or to save money on housing.
Like Katherine, they tended to leave expensive city centers for more affordable areas nearby.
This exodus to the suburbs will probably continue as remote work becomes more prevalent.
Unsurprisingly tech is leading the way as many of their workers were already integrated into an online workflow.
- So both my parents are also working from home.
They also both work in tech.
My dad's in customer support engineering and my mom's a program manager.
So we're all taking calls, all doing emails.
We're all in the same vicinity all day.
We're all in the kitchen trying to make lunch at the same time every day.
And I didn't have the emotional availability to be the kindest roommate, to be the most patient daughter.
- Well that is beautiful.
What's underneath it?
- Sunflower butter.
And I do feel bad about kind of how irritable I got to be in the pandemic because of my mental health.
- [Philip] Studies show that at home workers are just as or more productive than their office counterparts, but recent findings suggest that this may be due to the fact that remote workers are simply putting more hours, nearly 70% of office employees who transitioned to home during the pandemic report working on the weekend and 45% say they work more hours per week than they did before.
This is especially true of younger employees.
- I have three hours of back-to-back calls starting at 12:00 PM.
So I really only have like an hour-ish to get all my follow-up email done.
So I really need to speed through these.
Work-wise today has been piling up.
It's time to dig in more.
I've had like four hours of back-to-back calls already, but I've been feeling a little scattered.
Today was like a 7.5 in terms of busy-ness emails were pouring in dozens by the minute.
I was on back-to-back calls for probably five solid hours today where you're not have a single break in-between just back to back to back to back to back, I keep saying hopefully the next day is going to be easier, and it never is.
When I work in the office, I typically do leave around 5:00 PM at home there's not that same sort of like rush to leave at 5:00 PM.
I think the workload increased purely because the boundaries between leaving the office and finishing your Workday disappeared, and suddenly everyone was kind of online all of the time because they knew we could not do anything else.
Everyone knew if they texted you or emailed you for something at 9:00 PM, you were available.
I worked a 12 hour day today.
Its just anxious and stressed and busy.
I thought everyone would kind of kick it and relax and lay off.
But everyone's kind of leaned into the work, I think, because I don't know, maybe it's one of the only things that we can control right now is if you're privileged enough to have a job, to work hard enough and try to keep it.
I don't know, like I'm still internally policing myself when I'm working from home.
Like if I go take a walk for an hour in the middle of the day to like clear my brain, I literally feel guilt.
I've been trying to be more compassionate towards myself and give myself the rest that I need.
But it's hard when I have 18 things on my plate that I have to get done that day, that everyone's counting on me to do.
It's just hard right now.
I've been working like 60, 65 hour work weeks for the past, like eight or nine weeks.
And at a certain point, I don't even feel like I'm pushing myself anymore.
It feels like that's the pace that's set in front of me and that I have to play catch up every week.
And I feel like a failure even saying that, like, I feel like if a future employer are watching this right now, I would worry that they would think of me as like a less desirable employee.
I remember there was one day where I had just come off like a 12 or 13 hour workday.
And I just broke down.
I remember going into living room where my parents were and I was just crying and asking them like, is this normal?
Is this just the way a career works?
I was just so fearful that the way my life was, was just the way it was going to be forever.
And if that was the future I had to accept, I was, I was not going to be able to do it.
- [Julia] Only a few months into the pandemic, over half of remote workers surveyed reported feeling burned out.
Many said they felt less connected to colleagues, less productive and less positive about their career.
- Burnout is a particular threat for people whose identities are closely intertwined with their careers.
Psychologists call this enmeshment any blurring of the border between one's career and personal life like losing clearly delineated work hours can easily allow their job to crowd out all other hobbies and activities.
- When they first told us we were going home, we didn't know we'd be going home for a year, we thought we'd be going home for a couple of weeks.
Even when they do open office, this won't be my seat, so I figured I'd pack up my desk.
The distance from the office environment, it sort of alienates you from the work you're doing.
Suddenly it feels a little weird that you're just typing on a computer all day.
It kind of feels like, well, maybe this is not what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.
What is the purpose of this work?
Like what is cause you're not seeing the company at large and you're not seeing the community and what everyone's working towards as much.
And now it's time to close this little chapter of this office.
- According to a study by McKinsey and company up to 25% of workforces in advanced economies could work at home permanently for all or most of the week.
Many companies are eyeing a hybrid model requiring employees to be physically in the office, about half the time.
- But they're still mostly focused on the technical hurdles of remote work, like equipment and internet access rather than psychological ones.
Some argue that employers need to offer more guidance to their workers on how to manage their hours and workloads.
- Until that happens, it will fall on individual employees to find their own strategies to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
- I will not be logging into outlook.
I will not be logging into my work laptop that is shut and stowed away in its weekend compartment because we are all about setting boundaries here.
I'm at a place now where I am feeling so much better about my relationship with my work and where my boundaries are at.
Last year I basically worked with my therapist to just come up with ten one liners to throw back at anyone that was trying to push me to put in more work or do something far beyond my job description.
I don't quite think we're ready to move forward on that piece.
I think initially what made me scared to try setting boundaries in the first place was that I was worried that my brand would slip at my company and suddenly people would start to question how good of a worker I was, but I can say safely a year after my whole mental health breakdown, my burnout, I have not gotten a lot of, or any really negative feedback about my work ethic and my work style.
Thank you for taking care of that, that's a huge weight off in the process.
It's just been so freeing to be in a place where I really can shut my laptop at 5:00 PM and not be constantly thinking about work for the next six, seven hours every single weekend, all the time.
I'm going through a bit of a life shift at the moment.
I am finally departing from my parents' house and I'm moving up to Seattle, which is a place that I've always wanted to explore, and I've always wanted to try living there.
I'll be at the same company, still in the same job.
There is an office up there if I do want to go in for a couple of days a week, but I'm able to just work from home the full time.
And as far as my career goes, I'm very, very open to where the wind takes me.
I'm not as bolted down to like the eight step track for success in sales.
I think the last year has really forced me to reevaluate the role that my work and my career plays in my life and keeping my job as the way I make a living and not the way I build my identity, essentially.