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Working and Sleeping Throughout the Pandemic

Updated September 23, 2020

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Once upon a time, the idea of working from home might have felt like a dream to millions of employees. Being able to wake up and roll over to your desk, cutting rush-hour traffic and stuffy office-ready attire out of your life for good were likely just lofty desires. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the work-from-home dream suddenly came true for roughly 1 in 3 employed Americans – but it might not be living up to the hype.

Adjusting to remote work or telecommuting can be mentally exhausting if you’re not used to the experience. Your kitchen counter might have seemed like a luxury workstation for the first few weeks of lockdown, but, several months later, the charm of chat communication, videoconferences, and working in your pajamas may have worn off.

And while you might relish the opportunity to clock in back at the office soon, there’s one potentially unseen element of working from home that could be a bigger perk than you realize: sleep.

Are people working from home getting more sleep than they did when they were commuting to their jobs? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 employed Americans to find out how many are getting better sleep; napping during the workday; adjusting their work hours beyond the traditional 9 to 5; and how this shift in snoozing patterns is impacting their productivity. Read on to see what we uncovered.

Hitting the Snooze Button

Maybe it goes without saying, but pandemics can be stressful. A lingering sense of fear and anxiety about contracting COVID-19 can be hard to shake, and the lingering impact of that stress can roll over into your physical health, ability to concentrate, and relationships. Still, as we found, 42% of people indicated they were sleeping better as a result of the pandemic, while just 27% were sleeping worse.

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More than 2 in 5 people claimed that the pandemic was helping them to sleep better at night, but this positive shift in their time between the sheets was far more common among people working from home rather than working on-site. Compared to just 28% of people still commuting into their place of work, 45% of people working from home said they were getting better sleep since the pandemic began. Those still working on-site during the pandemic were also five percentage points more likely to report getting worse sleep. Overall, half of people working from home indicated they were sleeping better because of changes to their jobs triggered by the pandemic.

One possible change? Catnaps. More than half of employees (55%) working from home admitted to having taken a nap during their workday. While the average employee reported sleeping roughly 6.8 hours, on average, each night, people working from home also averaged nearly 30 extra minutes of sleep every day.

Men (45%) were also more likely than women to report having better sleep in the months since the pandemic began, and women were more likely to report getting worse sleep as a result of COVID-19 (33%). Despite the potential benefits of being able to work from home, research shows women are less likely to see the perks of not having to go into the office because of the conflicts that arise from blurring the lines between their work and family lives.

The New Normal?

For many people, working from home is an adjustment that takes time. Unfortunately, many businesses are also learning how to exist in this new telework environment, and it may take time to help ensure their employees have the right work-life balance established.

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One of the most difficult elements of adapting to a long-term, even permanent, work-from- home environment includes setting boundaries. When your work and living spaces overlap with no real break in between, recognizing where your professional life ends and your personal life begins can become a challenge.

Nearly 1 in 5 people reported working past midnight at least once during the pandemic, and more than 1 in 3 people reported feeling obligated to work longer hours in general. While less common, 1 in 4 people indicated they were dealing with shorter deadlines, and more than 1 in 5 people acknowledged direct instructions to put in extra time at work. Employees working from home during the pandemic were almost 50% more likely to work earlier or later in the day compared to their standard working hours.

More than burning the midnight oil, employees also admitted to feeling uncomfortable taking time off. More than one-third of respondents were afraid to use their time off (more common among those commuting to work than those working from home). People indicating lower quality of sleep overall were more likely to indicate hesitating to take time off work.

People surveyed who indicated their employer was actively discouraging time off during the pandemic reported sleeping 48 minutes less every night on average.

Work-Life Balance During the Pandemic

The pressure at work to get more done (or to work under tighter deadlines than you’re used to) can keep you up at night. As we found, the less sleep you get at night, the worse you’ll feel about the work you’re getting done during the day.

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More than 1 in 3 full-time employees indicated feeling it was a struggle to stay engaged (37%), maintain their focus (37%), or be productive (36%) during the pandemic. These reports of difficult working environments were significantly increased among people indicating a lower overall quality of sleep compared to those getting better rest at night.

Compared to just 30% of people reporting a high quality of sleep on average, 53% struggling to get the same level of rest during the pandemic were also struggling to maintain their focus. Similarly, 52% of people reporting low-quality sleep admitted they weren’t able to stay energized at work, and 45% were finding it difficult to be productive. And while 1 in 10 full-time employees acknowledged they were struggling to meet their professional deadlines, respondents with low sleep quality were nearly twice as likely to have this problem.

Perhaps even more importantly, people getting a higher quality of sleep at night felt better about their jobs. Compared to 37% of people getting worse sleep at night, 68% of those reporting a higher quality of rest also identified feeling motivated at work. Another 76% of people getting high-quality sleep indicated they felt productive at work, while just 43% of people getting low-quality sleep said the same.

Finding the Right Balance

Working from home has its struggles. While many people may have found themselves calling their home their office (and vice versa) for longer than they originally anticipated, there are still perks to this ongoing remote lifestyle. On average, full-time employees working from home reported getting better sleep at night, on average, and more than half had even found time during the workday for a little shut-eye.

Still, the quality of the sleep you might be getting during the pandemic could be directly related to how much pressure you’re feeling at work. Respondents who felt pressured by their bosses not to take time off also reported sleeping less at night, which led to increased difficulty to stay engaged, maintain focus, or feel productive. As much as employees have to adjust to working from home, employers have to do the same to ensure their teams don’t burn out adjusting to this new normal.

At The Sleep Judge, our mission is to help you get better sleep, whether you’re working from home or still commuting to the office. With our highly scientific method for reviewing sleep accessories, including mattresses, pillows, mattress pillows, and anti-snoring devices. Explore the best sleep resources and guides for finding your perfect night’s rest. With reviews you can count on and coupons to help you get the best deal, The Sleep Judge is your perfect bedroom companion. Visit us online at TheSleepJudge.com today to learn more.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,004 full-time employees, 778 of which worked from home, and 226 who worked on-site. 588 respondents were male, 415 respondents were female, and one respondent did not identify as male or female. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 78 with an average age of approximately 37.

To help ensure accurate results, all respondents were required to correctly answer an attention-check question. In some cases, these questions and answers have been rephrased for clarity or brevity. These findings rely on self-reporting, and statistical testing was not performed on this data. Potential issues with self-reported findings include, but are not limited to, exaggeration, selective memory, and attribution errors on the part of respondents.

Fair Use Statement

Are your readers adapting to life while working from home? Share the results of this study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story as credit to our team of contributors.