Is hybrid working heaven or hell for wellbeing?
The wellbeing of employees is directly correlated to performance and retention. Wellbeing (a.k.a. mental health, resilience) was already a priority before covid-19 and it’s now a strategic imperative.
Post-pandemic many organisations are re-evaluating their working practices, some are mandating a full return to the office, others are going fully remote, and still, others are using a hybrid model. Whichever model is selected its success will depend on clarity, intentionality, and disciplined implementation.
- Clarity about purpose, outcomes and what work requires collaboration and what doesn’t.
- Intention in choosing the method for collaboration (e.g., in-person, virtual or hybrid).
- Enough discipline to keep things on track (measuring and monitoring of progress).
Deciding on a hybrid working model.
The decision on working practices cannot be taken in isolation. Some of the other influencing factors are industry/profession, technology capabilities, a global war on talent, a multi-generational workforce, the cost-of-living crisis and a focus on diversity and inclusion.
All things considered here is a wellbeing angle on the decision to implement hybrid working, or not. Holistic wellbeing includes the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of who we are. Proactive resilience habits encourage us to work hard, play hard and rest hard. Being more resilient also gives us the capacity to know the value we bring, speak up for ourselves and get our needs met.
Pros of remote working (a.k.a. cons of office working)
- Increased free time as no longer commuting (can be invested in home/life/health/wellbeing)
- Cost savings for employees reduce financial pressure (clothes, commuting, transport, childcare)
- Cost savings for organisations (office space, utilities, facilities, branding, consumables) could be invested in enhancing their employee value proposition and wellbeing initiatives.
- Improved co-worker relationships (insights into the personality and personal situation of others via video calls helps to build empathy, understanding and trust-based relationships)
- Increased Productivity (reduced meeting attendance, multi-tasking whilst listening, flexibility to work at hours that match natural productivity rhythms and family demands etc)
- Quality of life (greater autonomy and flexibility in when and where work is done, introverts can conserve energy due to reduced social interactions, able to exercise in daylight hours outdoors)
- Access to leaders (tech-enabled ‘all-hands’ meetings when in-person events are not practical)
- Talent: widens the talent pool and promotes inclusion and self-sufficiency, especially for people with disabilities (e.g. mobility, neurodiversity), caregiving responsibilities or other situations that make full-time commuting and office environments challenging or unavailable to them.
- Reduced interpersonal friction/sexual harassment due to reduced physical proximity
- Reduced exposure to contagious sickness
- Reduced uncertainty due to consistent communication and the ability to revisit recorded sessions or central information stores rather than rely on the company grapevine.
- Success relies on modern management styles that evaluate performance by outcomes not presenteeism, through coaching not coercion, through trust not micromanagement, through encouraging adult-adult conversations vs a parent-child dynamic. Over time this increases the average management capability, and also loyalty and retention.
Cons of remote working (a.k.a. pros of office working)
- Time: perceived demand – just because technology is available 24×7 doesn’t mean we have to be, being able to ‘switch off’ physically and mentally is a discipline.
- Increased cost for employees (utilities, refreshments)
- Reduced productivity: If your home environment is cramped or if family/pets cause constant interruptions then it can be hard to focus your attention on work.
- Quality of life: Extroverts gain energy from social interactions so motivation and enthusiasm may drop if spending too much time alone, easily resolved through physical or virtual co-working sessions.
- Talent: Colleagues who are less capable or confident with technology may feel excluded or less willing to participate in remote social or team-building events.
- Visibility: It’s easier to hide that you’re stressed in a virtual environment so it may go unnoticed until individuals are further down the road to burnout and so the effort to recover is greater.
Resilience and hybrid working.
Hybrid working typically refers to a blend of office and remote working for everyone. It might also be that some functions or departments within an organisation are better suited to different working practices and a one-size-fits-all solution will not best serve the employees or the bottom line.
Employees all have individual home situations which will impact their preferences on how they best integrate work and life in a post-pandemic ‘new normal’. As with any large-scale change programme, employers that actively support their employees to adjust to new working practices will experience the least disruption to performance and profit.
Regardless of which working model your organisation is pursuing, universal resilience habits are vital to cope with the challenges and changes of life and say yes to the opportunities that excite you… we suggest you start with developing resilience habits around your values and setting boundaries, but we have many more practical habits to share.