66% of employees say their mental health improved after embracing flexible work. Meanwhile, burnout has increased. Is there a correlation between hybrid work and mental health? Why do people feel better when they can choose their working location? While many big companies force their staff to return to the office, their teams are striking back to keep the work flexibility they have gained over the last few years. So, why is this number not even higher?
Hybrid work helps meet the basic human needs for a healthier and happier life. But this doesn’t happen in every agile work environment. If your organization develops a toxic work culture, it will have damaging psychological effects on employees regardless of where they work.
Ensuring the mental health benefits of hybrid work is not difficult if you follow a few simple rules. Businesses often fail to realize the value of flexibility at work, resulting in unfavorable outcomes.
Time to discover why hybrid working promotes better mental health, what prevents this positive effect, and, contrarily, what boosts it.
The strong correlation between hybrid work and mental health confirmed
It’s been a few years since many of us have had the choice to either work from home or go to the office. We finally have a study1 that analyzes if there are mental health benefits to hybrid work. The outcome is crystal-clear: overall, flexible work arrangements positively affect employees’ mental health. Here is why this work model plays a crucial role in making people feel more psychologically sound.
The three key components of a healthy lifestyle
Three main areas of our lives act like pillars for our health in general: diet, sleeping patterns, and physical activities. The good news is that, as this study from IWG shows, working hybrid helps improve all of these three aspects. People surveyed went from doing sports 3.4 hours a week to 4.7 hours. They also sleep longer and often manage to get these 7 to 8 hours of sleep that are crucial for our health. Lastly, they have more time for cooking and therefore have healthier eating habits.
This doesn’t mean that if you tick these three boxes, you’re safe from mental health issues, but you certainly decrease the risk. For example, a lack of sleep increases the level of stress and anxiety. Doing sport boosts your endorphin levels, making you feel more relaxed and helping you focus.
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Level up well-being and happiness
People have more time to dedicate to activities that make them happy. For some, it’s sharing moments with their loved ones. For others, it’s having some “me time” alone. For others, it’s doing more sports, etc. These extra minutes or hours are crucial and contribute to improving their mindset.
For example, the benefits of having social interactions, doing sports, and spending time surrounded by nature are clear. Therefore, it is no surprise that employees have better mental health when they have time to do all of these activities more often.
Create a better work-life balance
A healthier work-life balance is the number one benefit that employees mention when talking about why they think hybrid work is the best model. It gives them this extra time for personal activities, and a mix of home-office and on-site days enables them to maintain workplace connection.
Focusing more on taking care of themselves and on doing things that make them feel good is essential, but it requires time. It helps them feel complete and aligned with who they are. They no longer feel frustrated about not being able to spend more time with their loved ones, paint more often, start bouldering, or whatever makes them feel happy.
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The impact of not having a well-thought out hybrid work setup on mental health
Flexible work contributes to employee well-being and mental health. Yet it doesn’t mean your organization is safe from workplace burnout. When you announce to your staff that you are implementing a new “work from anywhere” policy, they will undoubtedly be happy. Yet, their enthusiasm will quickly drop if you don’t adapt the work environment to this new working style. So yes, hybrid schedules help improve people’s mental health, but only with the right setup. Otherwise, you will only trigger the following effects.
An increase in stress and frustration
Another study 2 shows that 38% of hybrid employees demonstrated an increased likelihood of anxiety and depression symptoms compared to in-person workers (35%). It is essential to highlight that this research was conducted during Covid-19 when remote work was implemented all of a sudden without any time to adapt.
However, hybrid work can also make team members feel more stressed and frustrated. Micromanagement practices, poor communication, lack of support, and many other harmful behaviors can impact your staff’s mental health if not noticed and improved.
Hybrid working is sometimes seen as “negative” for mental health because of the difficulty drawing a clear line between work and personal time when working from home. For example, opening the laptop outside of working hours, even on weekends, is more tempting.
Moreover, the need for some employees to prove that they work as much at home as when they are on-site becomes a real remote work issue. It worries them so much they start acting differently than they would if they only worked in the office. They stay connected on Slack more than they should, they work longer hours than requested, etc.
Instead of fostering a better work-life balance, having more flexibility at work ends up being worse. Ultimately, it impacts both their performance at work and their personal lives as they are more stressed and anxious.
The risk of isolation
The office is a social place. For many of us, this is where we used to spend most of our time during the week. Thanks to hybrid schedules, we no longer have to go there every day, which saves us from losing time commuting and gives us more time for meeting friends and family.
However, for some people, working from home means more time alone and less human interaction. Employee isolation is a major issue that can appear in a flexible work setup. Obviously, in this case, hybrid work is not helping your staff to improve their mental health.
The potential home office struggles
Working from home while partners are at the office and children are at school is the dream combo for efficiency and productivity. But it can become an actual source of stress if they stay around. Distractions can make all the benefits of remote work disappear. According to the IBI research, 43% of remote workers mention dealing with constant interruptions when working from home as a major drawback.
Another home struggle is not having the ability to have a dedicated workspace at home (23%). Having breakfast on the kitchen table, working on that table, having lunch at the same place, and then working from there again every day is not the best for mental health.
Other issues related to working from home can affect your staff’s psychological well-being, like lacking a proper internet connection, the right equipment, a communication strategy, and so on.
Many aspects that are fostered in the physical work environment are weaker in a digital workspace. For example, building a strong corporate culture and a sense of belonging is more challenging when all employees work from different locations. Poor communication and a lack of transparency can also affect how your team members feel about the company and the purpose of their job. These are all elements that contribute to workplace connection.
This is a very crucial topic as businesses can create a team of employees that feel bonded to each other, their job, and the company itself. However, organizations that don’t succeed in building or maintaining this bond in a hybrid landscape are more likely to end up with a detached workforce.
The three “-y” rules to guarantee the mental health benefits of hybrid work
If your employees are in a toxic work environment, their mental health won’t improve if they stay at home or come to the office. The same goes if they don’t get the support they need. No matter where you and your staff work, some basic rules can help you create an environment that enhances mental health.
For example, regularly giving them the opportunity to voice any issue that they may encounter professionally or personally (as it can impact their work lives, too) is employee-centric. Trust and recognition are also two core pillars that should be a top priority for managers. Overall, putting your workers’ needs first should always be one of your ultimate goals (if not the one).
Have you ever asked your staff what they think about your leadership style? One of the most common complaints of hybrid workers is the lack of communication with their managers. Blurry expectations and unclear rules increase frustration and stress among your workforce. Soon enough, you start seeing a drop in employee satisfaction and engagement.
To collaborate successfully in a hybrid work environment, communication is key. Not only do you need to know their needs, but you also have to be straightforward regarding what you expect as a team leader. Without falling into micromanagement, you have to share clear guidelines with your coworkers. Be transparent about the latest updates and goals to achieve.
Technology is part of everyone's lives, and teaming up with tech to improve your staff's feelings at work is necessary. Many modern digital solutions support you in boosting collaboration, maintaining workplace connections, enhancing better communication, and so on. Take the example of a desk booking platform like deskbird, for instance. Our software doesn't only allow employees to reserve their favorite workspace. It also lets them see when their colleagues will visit the office and where they will be seated. Your team members no longer have to stress about not having the workstation they need. They can also have a sense of belonging and connection with their coworkers by going on-site on the same days. This also facilitates teamwork and team bonding while improving the overall employee experience.
In a nutshell, always remember that flexibility is the future of work.
In other words, don’t push your staff to do remote work. Allowing people to continue working from the office is crucial if this working style suits them better. Accept and be flexible if some of your team members want to come on-site only once a week while others prefer to work from home one day per week. The key takeaway from this article is that you must concentrate on knowing and answering your employees’ needs. Witnessing the positive correlation between hybrid work and mental health is necessary.
The youngest generations in the workplace, Millennials and Gen Z, are breaking records regarding burnout. Therefore, building supportive and people-focused work environments is crucial to slow down and reverse this phenomenon.
deskbird’s objective is to enable businesses and employees to make the most of hybrid work, getting all the positive sides of this working style without the downsides.