After the first wave of lockdowns and a surge of people that were forced to stay inside due to the spreading COVID-19, the trend of working from home has not only remained but is seemingly becoming a staple around the world.
The first lockdown showed certain disruptive patterns emerging in people’s day to day lives while working from home in countries like the UK, the US, Germany, Australia, and Canada, an initial study by a privacy protection company Surfshark showed using aggregate, anonymous data from its VPN users.
During the period, people’s routines have shifted towards that of night owls - staying up later into night hours, either for work or entertainment, and sleeping in during mornings.
Now, compared to the first quarantine period, the second wave of lockdowns in the UK (started November 5th), France (started October 30th) and Germany (started November 2nd), together with the peak COVID-19 cases in the US, have all shown a positive change in VPN users’ work-life balance.
Overall, stable routines are coming back as more and more people are active during morning hours. Time for rest and entertainment is also becoming more clear-cut and defined compared to the first lockdown when the line between work and play became rather obscure.
Lunchtimes make a comeback in the US
The user activity in the US seems to have normalized for the most part. People are generally less active during working days but more active during the weekends during the second lockdown compared to the first.
Mondays have remained overall stable, but activity across other weekdays has grown during 8 and 11 AM with huge spikes at 3 PM, while at the same time decreasing from 7 PM.
Lunch times and late evenings are less busy in terms of the number of connected users. This suggests that people in the US have adequately adapted to the new routine and spend less time working during odd hours than previously.
Germany remains the earliest bird
During the second lockdown, people in Germany generally started their days earlier and spent less time connected to their VPNs in the evenings (9-10 PM) throughout the week compared to the first quarantine. By hour, we saw higher activity earlier at 3 PM and 5-7 PM instead of later.
Weekdays Tuesday to Thursday have seen an overall decrease in activity as well, shifting more towards the weekend before reaching its peak on Sunday.
Compared to other countries, Germany was already the earliest riser during the first lockdown. Current data only fortifies this trend further as people got more used to working from home.
Rest and entertainment moves towards the weekend in France
The lockdown in France has seen overall less activity during working days than before. People were generally more productive in the morning (7-10 AM) and spent less time on their devices in the late evenings (11 PM - 1 AM).
Mondays have remained relatively similar when comparing lockdown I and II, but, same as in Germany, there was less VPN activity Tuesday to Thursday, which moved more towards Friday to Sunday.
The UK is busiest during the first half of the workweek
The aggregate, anonymous user data in the UK shows a somewhat different pattern than the rest of the countries. Overall, the weekend activity has remained relatively similar during both lockdown periods, but the weekday connection rates have changed.
The Brits were more active on Mondays and Tuesdays but significantly less so on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Their connection rates have also gone down at the late-night period of 11 PM to 1 AM but showed to be more active at 9 AM to 1 PM and 6 to 7 PM.
What does this mean for our future?
While the first lockdown was rough, the patterns during the second one suggest that people are successfully adapting to the new life regime brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, time management tendencies similar to that of before the virus, such as waking up earlier, lunch breaks and daytime productivity, are re-emerging. This suggests that people are getting into the natural rhythm of things as working from home becomes a new “normal.”
How this will impact the future of our work-life relationship is difficult to say. However, seeing how it took only ten months for everyone to reasonably begin coping with the situation, at least from a routine perspective, suggests that working from home will at least stay an option to anyone who prefers that over office hours.
It is also important to note that this data does not show anything but tendencies in VPN users’ general behavior. It does not depict people’s psychological well-being, physical fitness, or the overall feeling of contentment and adequacy.
The isolation due to the virus has negative mental health effects on both healthy people and those with pre-existing conditions, and its gravity cannot be understated.
The confusion and fear of the unknown also extends to those who are not fortunate enough to have the ability to work from home as many people are considering career change after what COVID-19 has brought.