Creating mentally healthy hybrid teams
Hybrid working arrangements have benefits, including ability to work from anywhere, more flexibility and less time commuting. However, hybrid work has also presented challenges including maintaining connection, collaboration and communication.
Part of the Creating mentally healthy workplaces during COVID-19 module.
COVID-19 and hybrid work arrangements
Many workplaces had to rapidly shift to remote working arrangements when the pandemic began. Even as lockdowns lift, many workplaces are navigating how to continue to offer some flexibility while still creating a mentally healthy work environment. While many people appreciate the benefits of returning to their usual workplace, many also want to retain the advantages of working from home, such as greater flexibility.
More workplaces have stated that they will continue to offer some form of hybrid work arrangements. Managers have evidence people are working efficiently. Better technology and infrastructure also supports remote and hybrid work.
However, hybrid work is not suitable for some industries and occupations. Frictions may arise within teams when some people can work from home while others cannot.
Challenges of hybrid work
- Reduced social supports – Hybrid workers feel lonelier when working from home than in the office.
- Diminished team collaboration – This can arise when team members are split across locations. Virtual platforms can facilitate communication, but they also change the nature and frequency of discussions and make spontaneous engagement more difficult.
- Close monitoring by managers – People closely monitored when working from home can feel tethered to their desk and distrusted to do their job effectively.
- Reduced professional networks and missed opportunities for development and promotion.
- Working back-to-back on video conferencing does not allow time for breaks between meetings, impacting both our physical and mental health.
How organisations can respond
Here are some things your organisation can do to create mentally healthy hybrid teams:
- Meet your legal requirements – It is important you understand your legal requirements for requests for flexible working arrangements. You also need to meet your work health and safety duties to manage physical and psychosocial hazards when people work from home.
- Consult and communicate – Exploring people’s preferences can help you balance the challenges and opportunities that hybrid work presents. You need to understand people’s preferences around ways of working and options for aligning them with the organisation’s needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
- Explore flexible working arrangements – This involves consulting with people and reviewing the different activities and work people in different roles undertake and whether hybrid or remote work is possible. You may need to review the infrastructure needed to support hybrid work (e.g. technology and equipment).
- Engage teams and managers in decisions – Involving people at all levels is likely to improve satisfaction with the result, wellbeing and performance.
- Encourage communication and networks – Encourage people to communicate via virtual platforms informally, and collaborate when in the office. For example, introduce a peer buddy system. Develop a clear hybrid or flexible work policy that identifies and explains expectations. For example, explain why mandated days in the office are necessary – for collaboration, innovation, team building or deep work.
- Address friction – Openly address any issues with the team and explore options for managing them (e.g. job sharing, or identifying tasks that can be done at home and reorganising work so they can be done in a block).