Why Hybrid Work Is Great For Supporting Your Employees’ Mental Health
If there’s one good thing that’s emerged from these trying times, it’s the realization that flexible working conditions are what employees need to maintain their work-life balance and mental health. We’ve touched on many of the benefits of hybrid work here, and we’ve briefly discussed how hybrid work allows your employees to experience better mental health outcomes. The mental health benefits from hybrid work for employees are numerous, including more time to work on personal wellness goals, reduction of work-related stressors, face-to-face time with colleagues, and the flexibility to practice more self-care. For these reasons, hybrid work is great for supporting your employees’ mental health needs.
Remote Work Isn’t The Answer
You might be wondering why hybrid work is the answer to good, if not great, mental health outcomes for your employees when compared to a remote or more traditional in-office work model. Can’t you experience the same benefits of hybrid work, because of the flexibility it affords to employees when compared to working from home? This is where the answer is more surprising than you may think. According to research conducted by JLL, nearly 70% of American and 40% of UK workers experienced severe burnout as a result of the stresses from working at home. With all of the added flexibility employees have while working from home, why is this the case?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses either temporarily or permanently closed their offices and transitioned their workers to a work from home model. Though many companies found that this switch initially spurred a sudden burst in productivity among their employees, many workers simply found it too difficult to switch off and step away from work since they were always connected to their colleagues via Zoom, Slack, and a myriad of other work from home tools.
According to an online survey from ADP Canada and Angus Reid, 44% of remote workers reported that they were spending more hours at work. In addition to this, many remote workers reported feeling isolated while working from home, and when only one in five workers found that their employers offered adequate mental health supports during the pandemic, you begin to understand why so many are over their honeymoon with remote work.
Back To The Office Then?
Then, is traditional in-office work the answer to helping your employees improve their mental health? Again, this answer isn’t so straightforward. There’s a reason why tech giants such as Microsoft are planning for a fully hybrid workforce – the majority of white-collar office workers want flexible working conditions, and they’re willing to quit their current jobs to get the work-life balance they experienced during the pandemic.
Add to this the fact that when a quarter of Americans and a fifth of Canadians are already suffering from a mental illness every year across North America, mental health is a challenge that unfortunately can’t be remedied by either a permanent work from home or in-office working conditions. It can however be helped with a flexible work environment, a culture that fosters inclusivity, openness, and compassion when discussing employees mental health issues, and some useful tools when employees spend part of their time in the office.
Supporting Your Employees’ Mental Health Needs Is Easy With A Hybrid Work Model
Hybrid work, at its core, offers the flexibility of both remote and in-office work. Because of the flexibility afforded by hybrid work, it’s the ideal work model in supporting your employees’ mental health needs. Employees can spend a portion of their time working from home and an arbitrary or predetermined amount of time in the office. It’s not a rigid work model, and that’s why it’s great for organizations looking to give their employees the time and opportunity to improve their mental health. With a hybrid work schedule, employees can fit their wellness-related activities into their schedule when they’re at home or in the office for a portion of their workweek. Hybrid work can offer employees the right balance of working from home and in the office so that they have the flexibility to take care of their mental health needs.
1. More Time For Wellness & Self Care
Wellness is a term that gets discussed a lot online, but what does it mean? Though there are varying interpretations of wellness, it fundamentally means continuously working towards a state of good mental and physical health. With a hybrid work model, you’re still able to set time aside at home to work towards your wellness goals. The flexibility of hybrid work will allow you to fit in self-care activities that will support both your physical and mental wellbeing.
For instance, you’ll be able to set aside time to go for a calm stroll through your favourite park, get in some physical activity (which has undeniable benefits to your mental health), or reach out to a professional who’s trained to help you cope with mental health challenges. In the U.S., you can find a list of mental health resources here, and if you’re north of the 49th, you can find some helpful Canadian mental health resources here.
2. Less Commuting, Less Stress
If you’re commuting to work, it can become a stressful, tiring, and for some, anxiety-inducing experience. Though shorter commutes can indeed be a moment of self-reflection and calm for some, studies have demonstrated that longer commutes can actually increase the risk of mental health issues. For many, being stuck in a commute that’s over an hour-long in bumper to bumper traffic can be quite a stressful experience. Multiply this by however many days of the year employees commute in a given year, and you can understand why long commutes can be a significant stressor.
Infrequent commutes or shorter commute times are one of the main benefits of a hybrid work model. With a traditional work model, you’re expected to be in the office, typically 9-5, where commutes can be over an hour-long both ways. If you’re only meeting once or twice a week, you’re saving a significant chunk of time that can be instead devoted to your wellness.
3. Face-To-Face With Colleagues
As we mentioned earlier, many employees struggled with feelings of isolation while working from home. Though technology enables us to have a digital connection with our colleagues, having face-to-face conversations and interactions is not only integral to team building, collaboration, and strong organizational culture, it’s also important to your physical and mental health.
Being socially connected helps reduce and mitigate the damaging effects of isolation and it provides an opportunity to foster a sense of purpose in one’s life. With a hybrid work model, you have the flexibility to set aside time during a busy work week for your wellness and to meet up with colleagues for some much needed collaborative time.
Capitalize On These Benefits
Implementing a hybrid office for your employees isn’t a wand-waving solution to their mental health challenges. To fully capitalize on the mental health benefits of hybrid work, you need to create an environment and culture that fosters inclusivity, openness, and compassion. If employees feel that their needs are falling on deaf ears or that they’ll be ridiculed for having a bad mental health day, they’ll feel reluctant to come forward to their colleagues and managers for support. This will further isolate them from their coworkers and managers, no matter how many in-person collaborative sessions you schedule.
Make an effort to reach out to your employees to encourage them to access the necessary supports needed to manage their mental health. Also, if someone is struggling at work with the transition from a remote to a hybrid work environment, reach out to them, be empathetic, and ask what can be done to make this move a much smoother and stress-free experience. This is where face-to-face conversations with colleagues can be especially helpful. Providing your employees with a compassionate ear can help them feel motivated enough to take the first steps towards taking care of their mental health needs. With the mental health benefits of a hybrid work model and a positive change in your organization’s, you’ll be better equipped when supporting your employees’ mental health needs.
Last, But Not Least
Be mindful that mental health challenges, and mental illness, can manifest in many different forms. Often, we’re reminded of how to do x,y, or z to feel less depressed or anxious. However, there are a large number of mental illnesses that fall into neither of these two boxes. They’re invisible illnesses that can be as debilitating as other medical conditions, with the added burden of a stigma that is hopefully becoming less and less prevalent with more education and awareness. With this in mind, treat mental health days as sick days so that your employees can take the time to get better. This will let them know that they aren’t going to be penalized or stigmatized for taking time off to get the help they need to manage their mental health.
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