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How to make Hybrid Working work

Flexible or hybrid working can be hugely beneficial for employees who generally find they’re more productive and have improved mental health. For this to happen, the right systems need to be in place.

The definition of hybrid working is that between 25% and 75% of working hours are spent working from home instead of at the office. Until recently this was rare and only the most forward-thinking organisations had started to implement this kind of flexibility for their employees. Since the pandemic began, working practices changed rapidly because they had to. We couldn’t safely mix with all those other people in a working environment, so working from home became the norm for lots of people. Now that we’re slowly coming out at of the pandemic and things are slowly going back to normal, employers have realised that working from home is a viable option for employees and people can be trusted to work even if they’re “not at work”. Our homes have become secondary workplaces.

We have also realised that it is important for our mental health to spend some of the time at the office, to bond as colleagues and within the team, to have those social interactions, “water cooler moments” and not feel isolated. Zoom meetings are great but can’t replace real meetings completely.

No one-size-fits-all

The challenge is now, how can we make sure that hybrid working is the best possible solution for everyone? Let’s start by stating that there is no one size fits all, everyone is different. For instance, if an employee finds themselves in an abusive relationship, working from home is the worst thing for them, as they are now spending even more time at risk. If an employee can’t work from home, this needs to be addressed and support given by the employer.

Offering employees the opportunity to work from home shows that they’re trusted and valued; but accepting that this might not be an option for everyone is just as important.

Working flexibly can also mean a difficulty in creating a routine as it requires a constant change in daily habits. This is especially true when the arrangement is to work alternate days from home and in the office. In addition to work related stress, we now also have to make sure that we don’t forget important items that we need to take back and forth. There are a couple of solutions. One is to have 2 of everything, the other (cheaper alternative) is to spend the time in only two blocks, i.e. Monday and Tuesday at the office, Wednesday through Friday at home. This way there is less chopping and changing and it makes everything that little bit easier. Creating a “go bag” and a check list will help.

Changing how we work at the office

After working from home for a while throughout the pandemic, many people have found that they find they can get more done when they’re working from home as the surroundings are generally quieter with fewer interruptions. If this is the case, then office days could be used for meetings and less focus heavy tasks, such as phone calls, etc. Being able to use noise cancelling headphones could offer improved focus during office days. You can, of course, also use them to play dedicated focus tracks which you can find (for free) on YouTube or Spotify; Baroque music has also been shown to improve creativity and productivity. Simply have a browser window open in the background with music or sounds of your choice.

Practicing a Mindful Breathing Space regularly throughout the day can really help reset your mind and stop the to do list whizzing round your brain.

Working with background music and sounds is only one of the tips that Isi Dixon, a Personal Productivity Coach shares in her online course “How to Stay Productive While Working From Home”. I have known Isi for many years, and she really knows her stuff.

It doesn’t work for everyone

Not everyone has the option of an ideal workspace when working from home. This is also an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration when implementing hybrid working. Having to work on a cramped tiny table in the bedroom or even on the kitchen table because of lack of space is not conducive to productivity or positive mental health. In these cases, hybrid working is not going to benefit the employee. Unless the employer can help with an improved ergonomic set-up, working from home will do more harm than good.

There has been another negative side effect that comes with working from home and that is mental exhaustion. We might get more done, but this can also come with an increase in working hours as it is much harder to draw the line between work and home when both happen in the same place. Working from home has also led to a lot of back-to-back online meetings which is extremely draining. Having no breaks between meetings for hours on end is extremely bad for your mental health. Companies must put rules and guidance in place so that these things don’t happen.

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For many years I have worked with managers, employees and private individuals to resolve problems, improve wellbeing, boost creativity and increase productivity.

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