5 surprising behaviors employees working remotely have admitted to

Before Covid, you might have sneakily shopped online or joked around with your office BFF on Slack during work hours. Now that many people are working from home, new distractions and habits are emerging — and while they can seem harmless, shedding light on them is important.

“Many professionals have been working from home for quite some time now, and a significant percentage will continue to do so even post-pandemic,” says Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist, a job search platform that recently released a study on the habits of Americans working from home.

“It’s important to dive into these surprising work-from-home habits to shed light on what has and has not been working well so that employers and employees alike can create a productive and healthy remote work environment moving forward.”

For example, 50% of remote workers say they check their phone continuously and 32% admit they find themselves disconnecting from friends and family while working from home.

“These findings suggest that many professionals are getting too much screen time and having a difficult time unplugging from work,” says Harrington.

According to him, employers should look out for these pitfalls and encourage their teams to take breaks to avoid burning out remote employees. And individuals should be aware of them as well so they can make a conscious effort to cultivate healthy habits — both in terms of productivity and mental health.

Here are five surprising behaviors employees working remotely have admitted. If you recognize yourself in any of them, be mindful and ask yourself whether they could be evolving into something more problematic.

And if you manage others, think of ways to use this information constructively — it’s not about policing but fostering a better environment.

1. Pretending to work

The most common work-from-home white lie professionals tell is “I’m working on that right now.” Not shocked? That’s perhaps because nearly half of the respondents in the survey mentioned above have admitted to it, so you might just have told it yourself.

While saying this once might not be a big deal, it could point to deeper problems, says Harrington: “This might indicate underlying issues like an unmanageable workload, unreasonable expectations, or a lack of transparent communication within an organization.

2. Drinking on the clock

You might be surprised to learn that 29% of professionals have admitted to drinking on the clock.

When considering the fact alcohol sales have drastically increased since the beginning of the pandemic as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) raising the alarm about mental health, this can be a red flag.

But even if we’re talking about more of a casual drink — occasionally starting a happy hour early — this habit highlights the fact that, when working from home, distractions are everywhere. And for companies where there were already workplace culture issues, these distractions become more tempting.

“If an organization was not doing a good job of proactively keeping employees engaged and incentivized before going remote, these distractions can become all the more powerful when everyone is working from home,” says Harrington.

3. Doing home chores during the workday

American workers say the top benefits of WFH life are the ability to take breaks and have more flexibility.

“But while working remotely can provide a lot of freedom for professionals, it can also be incredibly demanding and the line between work and home can become blurry,” says Harrington.

“Professionals should be mindful of this, and to avoid burnout and maximize their own productivity, structured breaks should be considered just as important, if not more so, than when working in an in-person environment.”

4. Disrupted eating habits

36% of professionals are skipping meals while working at home, while 24% of people overeat and 16% find themselves undereating.

The pandemic is affecting people on different levels and in different ways. It’s important to remember that working remotely during a sanitary crisis is not the same as remote work in regular times.

And organizations should make efforts to help their employees feel supported and encourage them to maintain healthy habits, according to Harrington.

“With more than one in three remote workers skipping meals, it’s clear that many professionals are having a hard time stepping away from their workload, leading to some unhealthy habits. This can quickly snowball, so encouraging employees consistently to take care of themselves and prioritize their physical and mental health is crucial.”

5. White lies

The most common white lies include fabricating connection issues to avoid a virtual meeting, using a tech-related excuse to avoid turning the camera on in a meeting, pretending to be busy to dodge a call or meeting, and pretending to be paying attention during a meeting while doing other things.

Notice a trend? When working from home, it’s so tempting to give a harmless excuse to avoid obligations.

“However, if pervasive, even these types of white lies can quickly erode trust with colleagues and contribute to an overall lack of transparency at a company,” says Harrington.

“Whenever possible, encouraging and fostering more transparent communication — even when it comes to the small stuff — is healthy for an organization and can lead to better outcomes.”