Organisations recognise that there is more to be done for employees mental health, around hybrid working. Hybrid working needs to work for both the employee and your organisation.
This article discusses what hybrid working looks like, as well as the advantages of hybrid working for your organisation. But also recognising the immediate and on occasions – more far-reaching negative issues that have arisen from the hybrid working model. The article will acknowledge some of the deeper mental health implications on both the individual employees and the productivity effect that has on your organisation.
Rapid shift to hybrid working
The pandemic has forced a shift on organisations that happened rapidly. Whilst it has been recognised that this shift has been technologically successful it has also left many employees struggling with mental health issues.
These work-related mental health issues have been exacerbated by the forced isolation that working from home has brought. Returning to the office is now also an issue for these employees.
A hybrid model is causing concern for individuals who are reluctant to return to the office and for organisations that recognise the ‘value’ of office-based interactions.
In conversations with HR leaders, it is recognised that hybrid working requires a skilful leadership role. A role in bridging the gap between accommodating the employee wishes whilst retaining organisational high productivity. With some team members reluctant to return to the office at prescribed times, organisations have struggled with the loss of collaboration within their teams.
This article will take a deep dive into concerns that HR and wellbeing directors have been voicing in their conversations with me, a resilience trainer and accredited ICF Coach. Together we have worked together to find personal, bespoke solutions to the issues raised by various hybrid working models and how to create a successful hybrid approach that works well for both parties.
Before we tackle the possible solutions and way forward a review of the issues and terms would be helpful.
To begin, let’s consider what the terms ‘hybrid’ and ‘coaching’ mean to most leaders.
What does hybrid working mean?
Hybrid working is flexible working where your employees split their time between the workplace and working remotely, whether that is at their home or in an off-site location.
Hybrid working describes a flexible and agile working schedule.
And whilst some organisations have been tightly prescriptive in their view of hybrid working, other organisations have allowed employees to work around their own schedules.
Some organisations have been very open with their return to work – an informal basis with little regulation. Whilst others have formalised a 2 to 4 days return.
In particular, more junior team members have been advised to come back into the office on a more regular basis. In order to promote learning and a deeper understanding of their role.
Both of these arrangements – flexible or more prescriptive – have created issues for organisations. In particular the HR and team leader headache of organising schedules.
In discussion with team leaders, there are some recognisable advantages of the hybrid working model.
Advantages of hybrid working
There are some recognisable advantages of working in a hybrid situation.
- Employee individual productivity has increased because of the saved time commuting to and from the office and from external meetings.
- Employees are now in control of their own time and feel more empowered and as a result more engaged.
- There is the opportunity for employees to have more focused days where work stuff ‘gets done’ without interruption.
To get the most of these advantages, it is widely recognised within organisations that hybrid working requires a very different workplace culture. Moving away from more traditional, transactional business cultures which have been focused on“all about the work.” Hybrid working means that the management culture has to focus on a more personal and professional development strategy to manage teams.
A move towards a collaborative management culture that focuses on individual and team development.
Where an open, and supportive culture creates a sustainable hybrid working environment. Using coaching style conversations to get the best from the teams and therefore solutions to the problems that arise from disparate working structures.
Employees need to feel comfortable about scheduling their own timetables.
Workers away from the office need to feel that working around the more traditional office hours is acceptable. In the culture of transactional management, your time for money no longer works for many employees.
Cost of hybrid working for your employees?
Disadvantages of hybrid working
There are recognisable issues with hybrid working.
Not least the fact that the latest workplace stress survey illustrates that nearly 80% of UK employees are suffering from work-related stress as a direct result of the lockdown. Now the return to the office is a cause of concern. The initial disruption of homeschooling and natural interruptions from being at home have been overcome. The focus and discussions around returning to the office, in a formal capacity, is being met with resistance from some.
During open conversations with HR and Wellbeing team leaders I have noted 3 main areas of concern with a formalised hybrid working structure:
– employees mental health,
– biases and inclusivity issues,
– team collaboration.
These issues have been explored below…
1. Mental health issues for employees
What HR departments have experienced is that the disconnect from work has led to a reluctance for some ‘resistors’ to return. The increased levels of isolation for team members have meant that they have felt a loss of reassuring conversations with colleagues. This has led to greater feelings of isolation and disconnect from the office, which is now harder to overcome.
In addition, shared work experiences have been lost and this has given ‘resistors’ that feeling of the overall loss of control. This has seen a significant increase in employees stress levels.
These employees are looking for reassurance and support on their return to the office.
The other mental health issue is around work-life boundaries. Working from home during the pandemic meant that many employees increased – not decreased as some managers had imagined – their work schedule. With no commuting time, it has meant longer time at the computer and at work. This initially increased productivity but now this level of workload has become the new normal. The gap created with the shift of working from home has now increased the workload.
The second reason why workloads have increased is due to ‘The Great Resignation’.
During the pandemic, employees have taken time to consider their options and look to change or leave their current position. This is creating a higher workload on other team members. A great strain on the existing member’s work-life balance.
- Employees are struggling to find a workable work/life balance
- Disconnected and isolated from work colleagues means that they are unable to get perspective on work issues.
2. Hybrid work biases & diversity
With hybrid working, there is a growing concern that some diversity and inclusivity will be lost.
Inclusive biases have arisen with remote working, as some team members are not present in the office. It has meant ‘out of sight out of mind.’ Being away from the office for periods of time may mean that opportunities are lost for the individual and workplace bias creeps in.
For example, those members of staff that are not in the office may miss out on valuable conversations, even key work decisions and possibly recognition of work that they have completed.
Having an awareness and understanding of these challenges means that ‘bias’ is recognised and all team members have an equitable experience.
Employees need to feel included in workplace interactions, meetings and decisions. There is an increasing emphasis on more ‘in office’ team meetings and face to face interactions. These interactions need not be always associated with work.
3. Work solutions & team relationships
Drawn out online discussions with colleagues means that problem solving is taking more time. Where once a simple walk by someone’s desk would answer a quick query. Online working has meant that a meeting needs to be scheduled, requiring more time on computer screens. With this comes computer fatigue and zoning out which is referred to as presenteeism.
Other issues with hybrid working have emerged including:
- Lack of cohesion between teams
- The lack of collaboration is affecting team unity and harmonous team relationships.
- Whilst individual productivity rose initially; workload has increased to meet this higher level of productivity.
- Employees are isolated in their solutions to problems.
- A lack of shared communication and explorations has meant that issues take longer to solve
- Solutions are more fragmented.
- Loss of creative decision making and problem-solving.
Importance of team meetings
Team meetings have become more important. Organisations are looking to retain a collaborative, creative, and innovative culture by holding in face team meetings.
Collaborative, in-person team meeting, means that the ‘solution’ to problems can come from a wide range of backgrounds, ages and skills. Team meetings that include multi-generational inclusivity. Where younger and less experienced members of the team are able to watch and learn from longer standing team members.
Team meetings and team events are an increasingly valuable part of team building. This was highlighted in a recent roundtable conversation held in October, as the quote below illustrated.
“Organisations recognised the growing importance of team meetings in terms of wellbeing check-ins and as a basis of collaborative resources.”
REF: Roundtable Discussion: Adele Stickland October 2021
Solutions for successful hybrid working
Two clear ways forwards have emerged for successful hybrid working:
- The importance of in person team meetings and live events are a vital way to reconnect.
- Agile working has meant a rise in ‘coaching’ principles in the workplace which means that employees feel more valued and therefore more engaged and producive in their role.
A prescriptive return to the office doesn’t easily gain traction. A personalised approach, where team members are treated as individuals will work well.
A quick audit of what works currently in the office will assist in understanding how resistors can be brought on board. As well as meeting resistors where they are and having a “positive conversation” around their value that they bring to the team dynamics will help smooth over issues.
Creating an open dialogue where team leaders ask open-ended questions to how the team member would solve a particular problem is working well. This coaching style of management offers higher engagement from the employee.
As coaching principles have emerged, the question is what does this style of management look like in practice?
What does a coaching management style look like?
Organisations have seen a step towards more agile working which has had far-reaching implications on the workforce. Organisations have become more democratised and those with a flatter structure have coped well with the transition. Using a coaching conversation helps to solve problems quicker. Less transactional ‘do as I say’ command and control management structure a more open-ended conversation where the team member finds and as a result ‘owns’ the solution to work issues. This means that managers are less involved with finding the solution and have more trust in their teams.
What is a coaching style?
Coaching is a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance so that the firm will reduce staff turnover and increase productivity. The learner is sometimes called a coachee.
Team Coaching Training.
Team coaching training is about developing the skills of teams and individuals to improve future performance. Bringing the team together so that all team members are recognised for the value that they bring to the success of both the team and the organisation. Recognition works well and is individually based.
Team coaching training helps to explore what each team needs to make their team work effectively.
For example, an accredited coach will simulate feeling empowerment with teams to find solutions to difficult work problems, customer service interactions, delivery issues, or technical problems so that the team will find positive solutions to these difficult problems.
To support organisations with performance issues and boost productivity during hybrid working contact Adele for coaching sessions for team leaders and employees. Coaching that use a structured approach towards clear objectives, personal growth and moving forward.
“Adele’s coaching session was very valuable and well-timed during COVID lockdown, working from home.”
Lee Jennings Pension Planning at Openworks
If your organisation is looking to incorporate a coaching programme or would like to investigate the opportunities that coaching can offer please email me to discuss your organisational requirements or book an appointment straight in my diary
Corporate Clients include:
- Anthony Collins Solicitors
- Saunderson House
- NHS Nurse Management
- Vickery Holman
- Landmark Information
- The Openwork Partnership
- Punter Southall Aspire Group
- Chase de Vere
“Thoughtful, practical and actionable advice”
“You can fail to be motivated and inspired by Adele’s infectious enthusiasm and a holistic approach to wellness and stress reduction”
Fresh pair of eyes…
“What a breath of fresh air you are Adele. So knowledgeable and passionate about wellbeing, personal growth and helping people to find ways to be their best selves.“Karen King Head of Talent & Development at The Openwork Partnership
#corporatewellbeing #resilientleadership #resiliencecoach
Adele Stickland Corporate Resilience Trainer & ICF Accredited Coach
With over 20 years of experience in the wellbeing and coaching industry, Adele has a unique insight into stress awareness and resilience within the legal and financial sectors. A powerful combination of personal experience and wellbeing industry background Adele is ideally placed to understand the needs of organisations looking to improve corporate resilience and coaching programmes that are specifically tailored to your organisations’ requirements.
A former leader in the marketing world, Adele was employed in a variety of corporate roles spanning advertising, retail, and marketing together with 20 years of running her own wellness and coaching business.
After ambition-burnout Adele learnt, through personal development, experience, training and learning Adele recognises that resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed using a crafted framework bespoke to each organisation.
An international best-selling author, and executive coach, and the Company Director of health and wellbeing programmes dedicated to inspiring and empowering executives to greater health, more vitality and stronger resilience.
Providing workshops, training and executive coaching that have been delivered and developed inside organisations in legal, financial and sustainable technology sectors.