The need to limit physical contact since the start of the pandemic has had a major impact on work, and has acted as a catalyst for the hybrid work model – working part of the time from at home and part at the office. The popularity and advantages of working from home have made it a must in numerous professional fields.
Besides allowing employees to replace their usual work attire with comfier clothes, working from home has also allowed workers to have greater flexibility and autonomy.
After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the sixth wave, people are gradually returning to the office with the majority of employers opting for a hybrid work model: most work days are at home and only some are spent at the office. With all the experience gained since the spring of 2020, businesses have managed to implement a variety of tools to facilitate communication and working remotely. However, some issues have been noticed.
Preserving good internal communication while maintaining balance
Good internal communication despite the physical distance requires the right collaborative tools and the proper management of equipment. Videoconference and instant messaging software, online project management systems, human resources policies for teleworking, remote IT support, the possibility of borrowing company equipment for home use or reimbursement of certain teleworking expenses are all ways that allow teams to stay connected.
However, finding a balance remains crucial: with a hybrid work model, professional life and personal life can easily overlap. Everyone needs time to disconnect. That’s why it’s important to define the correct communication etiquette: in what ways and at which times can employees call or write to each other? When is it acceptable to book online meetings?
Online messaging tools are certainly practical to sustain the feeling of closeness and to be able to discuss with colleagues throughout the day, but they should not be overused.
Undoubtedly, when working from home or in a hybrid work model, it is recommended to separate professional life from personal life and to establish clear rules by setting a specific work schedule, among other solutions. Whatever the chosen rules are, every business should introduce a work and internal communication etiquette for teleworking or working in a hybrid model.
Preserving team cohesion
Videoconferences have been the heavily favoured medium of communication for the past two years. However, as practical as they can be, these virtual meetings do not satisfy the need for human contact that many professionals feel. This can result in a lack of motivation for some. One of the potential solutions for preserving team cohesion is for employers to take steps to increase employees’ engagement even outside of the workplace.
Among the many different devices that allow you to maintain proper communication remotely, employers need to continue to listen to their employees’ needs and to organize regular discussions — in teams or one-on-one between manager and employee — all while saving time for moments of fun or informal exchanges like coffee breaks and virtual happy hour meetups.
In order to break the isolation that working from home can create, the human being has to remain at the centre of communications. It is not because we are glued to our computer screens that we are any less human.
While teleworking is ideal for some, its impact on mental health is greatly felt by others.
The risks of working from home
The obligatory switch from working at the office to working from home in 2020 shook up the daily lives of millions of workers, creating issues such as having trouble adapting and feeling isolated. Many felt like this change was a breath of fresh air, but others had more difficulty adjusting.
Before the pandemic, the consequences of working from home had already been the focal point of a few scientific studies that shed light on workers’ mental health issues. A study published by the International Journal of Healthcare showed that 68% of respondents had trouble separating work life from family life after a prolonged period of working. In addition, 48% mentioned that they felt socially isolated, 44% said they needed better work structure, 20% feared that they would lose professional contacts and 4% noticed that they did not participate in organizational culture enough.
Mental health: an important issue in the era of working from home
At the office, do you usually take breaks? Even when working from home, it is important to take some time away from your work. Experts advise to avoid doing everything at once, like multitasking by doing household chores at the same time as doing work tasks.
Maintaining balance between personal life and professional life is key, whether you work from home or at the office. It is important to show flexibility, and for some, finding that balance means using a hybrid work model by combining periods of teleworking with periods of working at the office.
According to the Association paritaire pour la santé et sécurité du travail, secteur Administration provinciale, a Quebec public sector employee interest group, there are multiple practices that can be put in place in order to maintain a healthy life while working from home:
- If possible, have a workspace that you like, located in a calm area;
- Set a work schedule and shut off your computer as well as other work and internal communications tools at the designated time;
- In order to avoid distractions, implement non-disturbance rules and specific moments of availability for your colleagues and loved ones;
- Plan breaks regularly;
- Organize your tasks by priority at the beginning of the day;
- Maintain your morning and evening routines (for example, reading the news with a cup of coffee before work or working out at the end of the day).
What methods have you adopted since the start of the pandemic? Have you become more efficient? Are you able to stay motivated and focused on your company’s goals?
The hybrid work model definitely creates a lot of challenges, but it also proves that businesses and employees are able to renew themselves, to adapt and to push boundaries.