The impact of hybrid working on employee wellbeing
30 October 2023
The shift to hybrid working has raised important questions about its effects on employee wellbeing. How has this transition influenced the mental health of your workforce, and how can you guide your employees through this new era of work that combines in-office and remote tasks?
The pandemic precipitated the advent of hybrid working, where the traditional five-day office workweek is now a rare occurrence, and our homes have transformed into bustling home offices. The setting could be your cozy couch or the serenity of your garden. This evolution offers numerous benefits but also ushers in new challenges.
The evolution toward hybrid working
The pandemic accelerated hybrid working, where working in the office alternates with working from home or working from other locations. The Future of Work Study reports that 81% of employees believe hybrid working is here to stay and will be the main working model by 2024.
With the efficacy of hybrid working firmly established, the demand for flexibility in the workplace has become a top priority for job seekers and existing employees. Organisations aspiring to attract and retain talent must embrace the hybrid model, though this transition presents HR with uncharted challenges. Remarkably, 72% of business leaders confess that their organisations lack a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges.
The challenges of hybrid working
Hybrid work offers enticing advantages that simplify life:
- Flexibility: employees can choose where and when they work.
- Improved work-life balance: adjusting working hours facilitates a better equilibrium between professional and personal life.
- Control over tasks: greater autonomy in managing tasks and scheduling.
- Time savings: reduced commuting leads to more free time.
It seems that hybrid working is a boon for employee mental wellbeing and happiness. However, these benefits only manifest if the work environment and organisation adapt to the hybrid framework. Working from home demands resilience, effective planning, and discipline. Those who may lack these skills might not function optimally in a hybrid system.
The flip side
Alongside the advantages, there are potential downsides to working from home more frequently:
- Reduced interaction: limited contact with colleagues hampers the pace of learning from one another.
- Weakened organisational connection: employees might feel less connected to the organisation's goals, values, and norms.
- Loneliness and isolation: working from home can induce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Always-on mentality: the boundary between work and personal life blurs when home becomes the workplace, leading to a perpetual sense of working.
- Increased workload: The always-on mentality and lack of a set structure can lead to a higher workload, lower productivity, and presenteeism.
- Decision fatigue: personal choices in setting work hours and breaks can lead to decision fatigue, contributing to long-term stress and fatigue.
- Reduced physical activity: Working from home might result in less movement and more sedentary hours, leading to potential physical issues.
These negative aspects are already manifesting. A recent study indicated that 74% of employees reported experiencing new mental wellbeing challenges since working from home. Respondents worked an average of 90 minutes more per day than before the pandemic when they worked in the office. Another study from 2020 revealed that 22% of respondents felt less effective at work than they did previously.
Five steps to establish a healthy hybrid working environment
For the hybrid system to thrive, its benefits must outweigh the drawbacks, creating a mentally sound working environment. As an organisation, this necessitates implementing a smooth transition. HR managers play a pivotal role during this phase. To facilitate a seamless shift to the hybrid system, consider the following steps:
Step 1: connect with your employees
Understanding your team's needs is paramount. Actively engage in conversations and monitor organisational trends. Building connections with your employees, addressing their specific needs, and demonstrating care and respect are key.
Step 2: practice expectation management
Based on your understanding of employee needs and your corporate culture, establish guidelines and expectations around hybrid working. Clarity in roles and responsibilities can reduce stress and decision fatigue among your team.
Step 3: demonstrate care
After setting clear rules, encourage your team to discuss their concerns, challenges and the impact on their mental wellbeing. Offering support, workshops, and education tailored to their specific struggles underscores your commitment.
Step 4: ensure a preventive mental wellbeing policy
In a hybrid environment, it's challenging to monitor the wellbeing of every team member. Hence, a preventive and easily accessible mental wellbeing policy is essential. External mental support can play a vital role in reducing barriers to seeking help and preventing absenteeism.
Step 5: continual improvement
Creating and sustaining a healthy work environment is an iterative process. Revisit these steps regularly to stay attuned to your organisation's evolving needs and challenges.
BloomUp is a digital platform that makes it easy for your employees to seek mental support via an external party. In just a few clicks they get in touch with their mental sidekick with whom they can work on their challenges together. By offering accessible help, you as an organisation can avoid absenteeism and increase the involvement of your employees.