The pandemic has forced the workforce to evolve. A lot of companies allow their employees to work from home to ensure that productivity keeps rolling. However, now that we are in the return phase of the pandemic, a lot of people are getting vaccinated, and offices are opening up, should managers expect all their employees to return from the office?
The answer is NO. A recent study shows that a mere 12% of employees are willing to go back to the office. Managers found a solution for this dilemma – Hybrid work – a brighter and promising concept for the future of work.
What is a hybrid work environment?
A “hybrid office” or a hybrid workplace is a flexible work model that supports both in-office and remote workers. It’s designed to meet the needs of a workforce that’s distributed.
This concept has been widely embraced by many companies because they manage to see that employees can still be productive even in the comfort of their homes by using the right technology.
Of course, these models will still require the physical appearance of employees working remotely if needed by their managers. This is to keep the company culture alive through physical team meetings and collaboration.
What does it mean to work hybrid?
No expert has yet to come up with an exact definition of hybrid work. However, if there’s one thing that’s for sure, an employee can work remotely or physically as needed or vice-versa. Hybrid offices can be their current office or a company set-up central hub that is strategically placed based on the locations of their workforce.
By paper, working hybrid seems an easy concept, but in reality, this is putting a lot of strain both mentally, emotionally, and physically for employees and managers alike. Remote work seems like a dream because you’re working in the comfort of your home. But a lot of employees are suffering from uncontrollable nuances at home, and the lack of physical interaction from team members is taking a toll on their mental health. Employees who are working in the office are faced with the constant threat of catching the virus, and the once noisy and fun-filled office space seems like a big empty playground.
Managers are faced with challenges they never thought would happen. The hybrid office is testing their managerial skills because their teams are displaced, and it is difficult to lead when half of your workforce is at home, and half of them are at the office.
Leaders who are working from home are faced with the challenge of leading teams via video or face-time. Before Covid, managers can just jump from desk to desk to check on their employees. Person-in-person coaching and training are more warm and uplifting compared to giving support on the other side of the screen.
Organizations are scrambling to find the perfect structure or model for hybrid work because the needs vary depending on the industry and the role of the employee. Management is tasked to decide which roles must stay at the office and which roles are okay with remote work. Hybrid work seems a global solution that no business has grasped how to make it work for their company’s benefits.
Will the hybrid workplace last?
Hybrid office is here to say post-covid. Remote working is a concept that has long been practiced by companies but only this time that it has been fully accepted. Even the real estate industry is banking on the hybrid office by offering tenants a redesign in their office space to accommodate the demand for a crisis-ready office.
However, the real challenge that the hybrid work poses is how the management prepares and ensures their employees that it is now safe to go back to the office.
Mental Health Support For Employees Now
There’s no denying that the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. 2020 made sure of that. In this report from Mental Health America, 9 out of 10 employees report that their stress in the workplace affects their mental wellbeing. 4 out of 5 employees feel drained emotionally from their work, and 65% of employees find difficulty concentrating because of their workplace. Despite this data, employees work day in and day out because they feel lucky enough to have work when there’s a lot of businesses closing down because of the pandemic.
Hybrid Office Mental Health Risks
Isolation and burnout are a great risk for remote workers. Despite the use of technologies designed to create a sense of community, not seeing your colleagues voids remote workers of their sense of belongingness.
To solve this problem, managers could use video conferencing tools not just for giving tasks or discussing projects but for digital socialization as well. Coffee breaks or after-meeting activities can help remote teams avoid feeling isolated from their office buddies.
Now for returning workers, they need safe spaces and support from their management. The same report mentioned that 3 out of 5 employees are not receiving adequate support from supervisors to help manage stress.
Providing A Guaranteed Safe Hybrid Work Environment
Anxiety, stress, and burnout affect both team members and managers alike. However, the catalyst of providing a safe hybrid work environment starts with the leader. A smart company will create effective collaboration with their stakeholders to prepare everyone in the company with these new work set-up to maintain productivity.
The Role of Leaders
Have an open plan. Before asking some of your remote employees, present your current and future plans for the office so they can be assured that they have a safe working environment. Discussing the following with your team:
- Office modifications like designating rooms for 1-on-1 meetings
- Will there be new office paths to follow? Will the entrance and exits be different? Will the access points be minimized or restricted? Are you going to make more room to create enough safe distance between desks?
- Periodic mental and physical health check-ups
Standard meetings should be held as via video conferencing apps. So make sure everyone is aligned with what technology or software to use. Always be open to suggestions from your team. Have space for a healthy collaboration will bring about a better future for your team.
Always place your employees first before an urgent project. Help them adjust first with their colleagues in this new work setup before showering them with tasks that need to be done. Create a room for transparency, talk to your team, be vulnerable, show them that you’re also a human – and that’s how you will find the hidden and unspoken problems.
Have an anonymous employee feedback system in your company so you can address sensitive issues that are often neglected. When the employees feel that their managers are creating safe spaces for them, remote or not, productivity will always be at its peak.
Work-life balance is the goal of every employee in any company. Remote or not, your stakeholders must feel that their space at home and at the office is the best space to work with.
Make good use of technology and available software to ensure that everyone is assured that their managers are working full time alongside them to ensure that any issues that they may have will be solved because you’re improving your organization’s capability to support mental health.