Can hybrid working balance business needs and employee wellbeing?

​Many employers are reluctant to fully embrace a new era of hybrid working as they worry that it will permanently damage employee productivity. However, if managed effectively, hybrid working can boost staff wellbeing and promote business growth.

There has to be a balance between organisational needs and employee wellbeing. Effectively managed hybrid working, which allows employees to work from home as well as requiring them to spend some time in the office, can achieve this.

In this article, we explore the challenges that come with managing hybrid working, as well as look at the benefits to both employees and businesses of home and office working.

What challenges can working from home pose on employee wellbeing?

There are genuine concerns that working from home can take a toll on both physical and mental wellbeing (even with a hybrid working model), with commonly reported problems including:

  • Stress
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of exercise
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • Poor sleep

It’s important to put this into perspective. Polling from the RSPH suggested that 45% of UK workers believed that working from home was better for health and wellbeing, compared to 29% of people who believed that it was worse. But that’s potentially a third of your workforce who may be struggling!

Resilience and Stress Management Training which focuses on increasing self-awareness, building resiliency skills and improving stress management techniques can help employee wellbeing thrive while working outside of the office.

The business and wellbeing benefits of working from home

As working from home can pose some risks for employees’ wellbeing it can be tempting to end hybrid working and simply force employees to come back to the office full time – but this can backfire for employers, making them look draconian and out-of-step with modern worker needs. Indeed, this year has seen more and more employers issuing back to the office mandates and this has been met with strong resistance. In August the Guardian reported that “Almost 30,000 (Amazon) workers signed a petition against return-to-office mandate”. It's important to consider the business benefits of offering hybrid working. Many employees value the ability to work from home flexibly, so employers can benefit from hybrid working through:

  • Retaining key workers: If employees need to look after children or elderly parents during parts of the day, hybrid working allows them to flex their working hours and provides a better work/life balance. “24% of women go back full time after having children and 57% of them leave within two years.” - Ryan Hopkins
  • Reducing employee stress levels: Working from home allows people to fit wellbeing activities around their work (e.g., going for a run or a walk before work instead of commuting).
  • Strengthening the Employee Value Proposition (EVP): Employees will want to work for a company that looks flexible and employee-centric.
  • Helping with employee finances: Travel and caring costs are reduced, which can make a significant difference in the current financial crisis.
  • Widening the recruitment pool: Approximately 15-20 percent of people are neurodivergent. Allowing them to work at home enables them to do their best work without having to contend with sensory disturbances.
  • Increased productivity – a workforce that feels listened to is more engaged so will work harder and the business will also benefit from less time lost to stress related illnesses.

So it’s clear that hybrid working is not just about offering a welcome benefit to employees, it’s also about creating a diverse, productive, successful (and happy) business.

The business and wellbeing benefits of being in the office

The CIPD’s UK’s Hybrid Work Commission report put it well when it said: “Office environments provide valuable opportunities for collaboration, learning and social interaction”. It’s all about balance, and while working from home does offer clear benefits for supported employees, there are also solid advantages to having an office environment.

Common benefits of being in an office include:

  • Improving employee knowledge: People, particularly new starters, learn by osmosis. Listening to other people’s conversations and how they deal with situations can provide a valuable source of learning.
  • Strengthening the Employee Value Proposition (EVP): Social interaction is proven to improve wellbeing. Having an office space where people can interact is attractive to many employees.
  • Helps to build an employer brand and culture: Every brand has its own unique personality, values, and culture. This is often easier to convey to employees within a physical space with day-to-day interactions. In fact, these interactions can be what helps to shape the culture!
  • Allowing managers to spot mental health issues early: Managers are more likely to become aware of a person who is unwell if they interact with them in person.
  • Fosters better collaboration: Face-to-face meetings and working together in the same space can allow for better sharing of ideas.

The onus, therefore, is often on a business making their offices a functional, welcoming space that entices employees to come in so that they can work in comfort and collaborate more effectively than if they were working from home.

Managing hybrid working for employee wellbeing

Managers now need new skills to manage hybrid working, ensuring that employee wellbeing is looked after so that teams are at their best by being both happy and productive. Some of the best ways to manage hybrid working for employee wellbeing include:

  • Ensuring days in the office are effective: Employees that prefer working from home will not want to come in if they feel they are wasting their time.
  • Sharing and discussing the organisation’s hybrid working policies with the team: Everyone should know what is expected of them both at home and in the office. Be open to dialogue but firm on aspects that cannot be changed.
  • Communicating regularly with each employee: Discuss the effects of hybrid working on mental health and productivity in 1:1 meetings. If either wellbeing or targets are being negatively impacted, changes to the employee’s working environment should be considered.
  • Providing staff with the right home equipment and environment: Staff must have access to all systems when at home but also have a proper desk, chair and peaceful space to be able to work safely and effectively.
  • Watching for signs that remote working is affecting mental health: Red flags could include: not turning on the camera for meetings, becoming unresponsive, and mentioning issues with sleep.

It’s important that line managers are able to identify and deal with issues surrounding employee mental health. Employers should run focused mental health training for managers which teaches them to recognise and prevent mental health problems as well as how to manage the wellbeing and motivation of remote teams.

How Altruist can help

Altruist Enterprises has helped more than 500 organisations to identify and address mental health issues so that they can increase their teams’ welfare and productivity.

As well as our Resilience and Stress Management Training Course and our Online Mental Health Training For Managers Course, we’re also able to take an in-depth, holistic view of your wellbeing offering through our Workplace Wellbeing Consultancy Services.

Our consultancy is tailored to help you develop a well-crafted workplace wellbeing programme, allowing employees to become more engaged, motivated, and productive both in the office and at home.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

Sarah Woods

Sarah is Head of Operations at Altruist Enterprises responsible for marketing, people and processes as well as working with Katie on strategy. She has spent most of her career as a marketing manager in professional services, supporting managing partners with structuring and growing their business areas. Sarah enjoys meeting and working with people from different backgrounds who all have unique skills. She gets pleasure from developing the individual talents of those she manages.

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