Employees are returning to the office in droves now that COVID restrictions have largely eased. But while some offices are reopening, for others, a new arrangement has replaced the old nine-to-five. It’s called hybrid work, and it gives employees the flexibility and autonomy to manage their schedules — that is, when it works.
As wonderful as hybrid work is, it can quickly lead to burnout if not managed properly.
In this article, we’ll look at what causes hybrid work burnout in employees and what business leaders can do to fix it. We’ll also explore how to implement better arrangements so that employees can reap the full benefits of hybrid work without burning out.
Let’s dive in.
Hybrid work is a recent phenomenon, so it’s bound to have some kinks. After all, it was the pandemic that helped this work arrangement gain both traction and legitimacy.
But, because of its status as the new kid on the block, many organizations around the world haven’t known how to support their employees through those “kinks.”
Enter: hybrid work burnout in employees.
It’s quite prevalent. According to a study by Microsoft, 48% of employees and 53% of managers have experienced burnout in the workplace in the hybrid era.
But does its prevalence make hybrid work burnout inevitable? Maybe not. First, let’s take a look at some of the causes of hybrid work burnout below.
Most employees around the world had their routines thrown into disarray when the pandemic started. Schools were closed, social distancing was enforced, and workers had to get used to remote working while taking care of their children’s education, among other things.
Then, when the pandemic came under more control, employees had to get used to going back to the office again. The constant adjustment between personal and professional routines increased stress and fatigue while blurring work-life boundaries, leading to hybrid work burnout.
It’s much easier for in-person teams to coordinate with each other. Coordinating with those working remotely, on the other hand, requires a little more effort. It may start with small exchanges and minute details, but as people get used to who’s being briefed and who’s not, ingroups and outgroups might form.
Eventually, those working remotely may be excluded from bigger conversations and key decisions made by people working in-office, creating a sense of disconnection with the organization.
If left to fester, this may even lead to what Harvard Business Review (HBR) describes as a “dominant class” (those who feel central to the organization) and an “underclass” (those who feel peripheral and disconnected from the organization and their work within it).
These things, in turn, can lead to burnout in the hybrid workplace.
One of the reasons hybrid workers often find it difficult to switch off from work is that they don’t have control of their own schedules.
This can happen with any hybrid work model but is particularly prevalent in office-first, split-week, and week-by-week models. A lack of autonomy can cause employees to feel fatigued, leading to hybrid work burnout.
Fortunately, this is something that can be easily solved.
According to research by Gartner, employees who could decide when they worked performed 2.3 times better than employees who lacked that choice. In the same survey, workers with more autonomy reduced their fatigue by 1.9 times.
According to a McKinsey survey, many businesses haven’t communicated to their employees what work after the pandemic is going to be like.
In fact, only 32% of employees feel their organizations have communicated a clear vision for post-pandemic work. Furthermore, 28% say their organization’s communications have been vague, while 40% say their organization hasn’t communicated with them at all.
This lack of communication has caused anxiety — a major cause of hybrid work burnout — in 47% of employees.
Because employees are unclear about the future of post-pandemic hybrid work arrangements, they naturally have fears about each aspect of hybrid working — onsite and remote work.
Work-life balance tops the list, with 45% of employees worrying it’ll get worse onsite and 46% fearing the same thing will happen remotely. Another major concern is a decreased focus on employee well-being for both onsite (42%) and remote work (43%).
As for just onsite work? 44% of employees are afraid of getting sick if they return, and 39% fear that their day-to-day work will be less flexible once they go back to the office.
What about just remote work? It’s all about connection, with 44% of employees fearing a loss of community and 43% worried about a loss of collaboration.
To leverage the significant advantages of hybrid work without experiencing its “downsides” like stress or burnout, watch our video on how to solve hybrid work challenges with the right software.
Most burnout-related issues are caused by not hybrid work itself but poor management and even shoddier communication.
The good news is leaders can fix the burnout caused by hybrid work(or prevent it from happening in the first place) by doing the following things.
Designing a hybrid work environment that works for an entire organization takes a lot of coordination, which is understandably difficult for those who predominantly worked face-to-face before the pandemic.
However, consulting with your staff makes that process much easier and fosters a culture of trust and inclusivity in the workplace.
Consulting with your staff will also give them the autonomy and flexibility they need to thrive. In fact, employees who contribute to their organization’s work design perform 2.5 times better and are four times more likely to report lower fatigue.
Humans are social animals, so give your team the tools they need to connect.
For example, check in with employees from time to time to see how they’re doing. Share information with them and keep them updated on company policies and procedures, no matter if they’re working in the office or fully remote.
This will ensure there are no information gaps — and hopefully prevent ingroups and outgroups.
Team-building exercises are also a great way to keep everyone — both remote and in-office workers — connected.
Take some time to hold virtual company events, for instance, or connect colleagues who don’t typically work together. Or why not bring the whole team together on Fridays for a drink or two?
A well-connected team is one that can rely on each other to pick up the slack when someone’s down. And this could lead to a whole team feeling less burnt out.
It’s important to look at your organization’s culture to see how it’s supporting or detracting from your employees’ well-being.
36% of employees, for example, would like daily breaks and a devoted “self-care day” every month. 34% would also be happy with a dedicated “meeting-free” day every week. These are things that many employees claim will make them more productive, so they’re a win-win.
And for everyone’s sake, don’t overwork your employees — it’s the quickest path to chronic workplace stress. Make sure boundaries between work lives and personal lives are set, and stick to them at all costs.
Not only will your employees be more engaged and productive as a result, but you’ll also retain top talent within the company.
When managed properly, hybrid working is a powerful way to work. It gives employees the autonomy and flexibility to do their best work.
And it allows employees to increase revenue and reduce costs.
But if leaders don’t communicate well, dictate their employees’ schedules, or don’t have a clear plan on how to set up a hybrid working environment, hybrid work burnout can result.
Fortunately, OfficeRnD Hybrid can help set your organization up for hybrid work success. Its feature-packed hybrid software makes it easy to manage your workplace, plan your schedules, and empower your team to thrive in a hybrid environment.
Hybrid work is exhausting because many people still aren’t used to it yet. It can be disruptive to their usual work schedules, and some employees may not have control over their schedules, either — both of which can cause hybrid work burnout.
One of the biggest challenges of hybrid work is the lack of uniformity in employee experiences, which can lead to a lack of equity of experience. This is because hybrid work involves working from the office part of the time and remotely the other part, and each person’s remote setup can vary vastly from someone else’s.
Yes, employees are generally happy with hybrid work. In fact, up to 60% of them prefer it over other forms of work.
Yes, hybrid work is better for mental health. A survey from the International Workplace Group (IWG) shows that two-thirds of workers report good mental health after switching to hybrid work, and 81% have more personal time to spend on their well-being.
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