The Covid-19 pandemic has thrust many organisations into a new way of work. Nearly two years in, we see that many organisations still operate virtually, with many people working from home. This is of course not possible for all industries or all job roles, but we see a trend internationally for remote work to continue past the pandemic for those industries and job roles where it is possible.
73% of the global workforce indicates that they would prefer for remote work to continue (1). We also see that 83% of employers believe that the shift to remote/hybrid work has been a successful one (2). We also know that around 49% of employees born after 1980 will consider leaving their current roles if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely (3). Additionally, 67% of the global workforce also indicates a need for more in-person interactions with their colleagues1. Organisations have further also seen increases in productivity among their remote workforce as well as increases in their bottom line. More than half of employers believe that their employees are more productive working from home2.
This tells us that hybrid work models are here to stay, and as organisations we need to be able to deal with the impact it has on our employees and organisations. Remote work has, to some extent, enabled employees to structure their work around those tasks that they view as meaningful to themselves as well as to the strategic objectives of their organisations. This increases the meaning people derive from their work, which could lead to greater engagement. However, continued remote work could lead to social isolation or disengagement among team members and we need to ensure that we continue to keep our workforce both engaged and productive.
We’ve compiled some tips for employees and managers on how they can effectively deal with hybrid work. These are based on extensive literature reviews and a recent collaborative research project between JVR and the Human Resource Department at the University of the Free State, where we investigated the impact that remote work has had on employee well-being.
Tips for employees:
1. Keep a regular work schedule
Employees who structure their workday around a schedule tend to experience less work-related stress than their counterparts. Remote work has also enabled employees to structure their days around work that they think contribute most to their goals, thus providing them with a sense of autonomy and greater engagement.
2. Put boundaries in place
One of the main sources of work-related stress during the pandemic is work-life balance. Employees struggle to find the balance between the roles they have to play at work and those that they are expected to play at home. By putting boundaries in place, they can more effectively navigate these roles. This counts both ways – being able to separate your home life from work commitments and taking the time needed to spend with your loved ones, but also being able to set apart focus time for work with no distractions from your home roles.
3. Get comfy with tech
Technology has become the cornerstone of connectivity during the pandemic and will continue to enable organisations and employees to stay in regular contact. Technology that doesn’t work effectively, however, can lead to frustration and when employees feel as if they don’t have the necessary IT support in place, they are likely to struggle more to deal with other work-related stress. Making sure that you know how the technology that was designed to make your workday easier works or at least knowing who to contact if it doesn’t, can save you lots of frustration.
4. Listen to your body
Healthy people tend to cope better with work-related stress. Listen to your body when it tells you to slow down or that you need to drink more water or eat more sustainable snacks. We become so busy that we often neglect our basic physiological needs. We found that people who get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat more healthily will tend to cope better with their work stress. It is important to know when you need to take a break. If your workload is too much to handle you will struggle to deal with stress regardless of physical resilience.
5. Make an extra effort to communicate with your boss and team
With remote/hybrid work we see fewer interactions between employees from different teams or departments. Even within teams, some individuals form clusters, and we see diminished communication across teams and even within teams. When teams do not engage with others outside of their teams, they run the risk of groupthink which could lead to a lack of innovation. It is also important to be able to talk with your boss or team leader when you feel overwhelmed. In our recent study, we found that workload was one of the main sources of stress during remote work, so it is important to discuss this with your boss and be able to reach out to colleagues when you require help or additional resources.
Tips for managers:
1. Set expectations early and often
Our recent study found that role ambiguity is one of the main sources of stress among employees. Ensure that you clearly communicate what is expected from your employees and how a hybrid work model might impact their roles and the responsibilities allocated to them. Give employees an opportunity to highlight the type of work that they enjoy doing and allow them space to incorporate some of this type of work into their roles. Research shows that employees who get to focus on work that they find meaningful are likely to deal better with work-related stress.
2. Build connections
As remote work continues, we see declines in the networks within organisations that could lead to a loss of social capital. Social capital is imperative for continued innovation and productivity. Although teams that continuously work together may remain in close contact, the ties between different teams may weaken with continued remote work and managers need to be aware of this. Employees may need to rely on colleagues outside their own team to conduct their work and managers should establish these connections to enable their employees to reach out when needed. Connections between colleagues from different teams also contribute to knowledge sharing and the efficiency with which projects can be completed.
3. Remember to listen
We know that employees thrive in environments where they experience psychological safety. The pandemic has taken a toll on people and adapting to hybrid work models can be difficult for employees. Employees may not feel comfortable telling their managers that they are struggling to adapt out of fear or lack of assertiveness.
4. Resist the urge to micromanage
Teams where there is trust perform better than teams without trust. Provide your team with their goals and objectives and allow them to achieve those. If you make sure that your employees have a clear understanding of the outcomes of a project, you can stand back and allow them to find their own ways of achieving these outcomes.
5. Celebrate success
Employees who feel that their contributions are recognised and valued are more likely to deal better with work-related stress and stay engaged. The last year and the great resignation have also taught us that when employees feel undervalued, they leave. Employees want to be able to develop and grow in their roles, and providing positive feedback and recognition can guide them along their career trajectory.
 The Work Trend Index. (2021, March 22). The next great disruption is hybrid work – are we ready? Microsoft. /en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work
 PwC’s Remote Work Survey. (2021, January 12). It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done. PWC. /us/remotework?WT.mc_id=CT10-PL102-DM2-TR1-LS3-ND30-PR4-CN_ViewpointHighlights-
 Melin, A., & Egkolfopoulou, M. (2021, June 1). Employees are quitting instead of giving up working from home. Bloomberg Wealth. /news/articles/2021-06-01/return-to-office-employees-are-quitting-instead-of-giving-up-work-from-home
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