Creating a healthy hybrid environment
Welcome to the eighth instalment of our #masterhybridwork series. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you’ll know we’ve pointed out the health risks associated with poorly-structured hybrid environments, including loneliness (professional isolation) and online fatigue (difficult collaboration). This week, we’re focusing on the implications of these risks, and what it means for an employer.
These risks influence both our physical as well our mental health. And we all need to build them into our hybrid strategy – as the Harvard Business School found that 81% of workers wanted to work hybrid post-pandemic.
Here at HB Reavis, we’ve created a wide range of hybrid-friendly services and technologies. Some of them can protect and improve health when you’re working hybrid. But let’s start by looking at the health risks in detail.
Loneliness and social isolation
You know the story. Covid sent us into isolation at home. And the lack of in-person contact with friends, families and colleagues and families was a punch to the face. Worse possibly, as neurology researchers have shown that the psychological pain of loneliness may feel the same or even more painful than a physical punch.
“36 percent of respondents to a national survey of approximately 950 Americans reported feeling lonely “frequently” or “almost all the time or all the time” in the prior four weeks, compared with 25 percent who recalled experiencing serious issues in the two months prior to the pandemic… Moreover, 63 percent of young people reported experiencing substantial symptoms of anxiety and depression.” The Harvard Gazette
It’s quite natural to feel lonely from time to time. However, as the pandemic goes on, the feelings become long-term. And long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems like depression, anxiety and increased stress, as mental health foundation pointed out.
Based on research by Stanford University and the University of Gothenburg, there are five categories of fatigue that can come during or after working online for long periods.
- Emotional Fatigue where you feel overwhelmed and drained
- Motivational Fatigue when you struggle to start an activity and feel lethargic
- Visual Fatigue like tired eyes and blurred vision
- Social Fatigue such as wanting to be alone
- General Fatigue relates to a wide-ranging feeling of tiredness
What experts are calling ‘Zoom Fatigue’ is new to many of us too. Very similar to forms of online fatigue, it leads to a variety of common symptoms.
- Social detachment
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Headaches or migraines
- Low productivity
- Burnout (i.e. feeling overworked and exhausted)
The symptoms of Zoom Fatigue can vary from person to person. Some might only experience one or two symptoms, others most or all of them. Existing mental health issues or other sources of stress can exacerbate the symptoms too.
Want to know if or how you’re fatigued? Fill our this Stanford survey.
Bad Ergonomics of Workstation
During the pandemic, pretty much everyone who’s worked from home will have noticed some big differences between their home workstation and office workspace.
Many of us weren’t properly set up to work from home for long periods. We didn’t have a comfy, ergonomic and adjustable chair. We didn’t work at a sit/stand desk. Or have the latest computing technology. And spending thousands on home workstations didn’t initially make good business sense for employers facing an unsettled future.
This lack of ergonomic design can make people stressed and frustrated. In fact, ergonomic workspace issues are the fourth-biggest environmental and occupational risk of disability for 15-49 year-olds (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2015).
What’s more, when employers make their people comfortable at work (whether in the office or at home), it can reduce employee fluctuation, increase participation and decrease absenteeism (Kanakri et al., 2016). Another study showed a return of $10 for every $1 invested in ergonomics (Heller-Ono, 2014) – proving that working at a kitchen table on a fixed dining chair not only hurts an employee’s bottom, but also their employer’s bottom line.
What can be done about this?
Hybrid can – and should – be a healthy way to work. Especially when it strikes the right balance between work and life. Follow these simple tips to make your people feel comfortable.
- Play an active role in helping employees create a good home workspace (workstation, furniture, lighting, biophilia)
- Consider providing home office equipment as an employee benefit
- Encourage people to come into the office, not just to work together and collaborate, but to socialise at regular and one-off events
- Promote mental wellbeing by educating employees about the risk and impact of loneliness, stress and burnout
- Implement preventive and supportive mental health measures, from HR documents and guides to discrete mental health hotlines
Don’t miss out on any of our blogs. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll keep in touch:
"*" indicates required fields