Hays’ Nick Deligiannis advises managers on how to prioritise their staff’s mental wellbeing in a hybrid working environment.
Managing a hybrid workforce requires a different leadership style. It is a challenge for the many leaders who have not previously had to manage a workforce divided between the office and home.
Identifying the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health is understandably more difficult when half of your team is working remotely at any given time. So, it becomes more important for you to familiarise yourself with the signs that someone may need your help and support.
The common signs include a change in mood or behaviour, how they interact with others, whether they have become withdrawn from their work, a lack of motivation or focus, or feeling tired or anxious.
So, how can you ensure that you are doing everything possible for your team and prioritising their mental health and wellbeing during this period?
Support your employees
For some people, moving to remote working was a challenging adjustment and they may continue to struggle in the hybrid working model. So, an extra level of understanding and compassion towards each team member’s personal situation is needed, even as things begin to return to some sort of normality.
Ask yourself whether your employees have everything they need to be happy and productive. Do they have the right level of support? If they don’t, ask what additional support they require.
For instance, do their hours need to change to allow them to manage home commitments? Are there aspects of their role that need to adapt to help them carry out their job or is training required to help them cope?
Open a two-way dialogue and create a space for them to raise their concerns and to be vulnerable. This will help you to gain a valuable understanding of their unique situation.
Show your people that you trust them
Regardless of whether you are managing people who are in the same physical workplace as you or not, it’s important to take a step back and trust your employees to deliver what is expected of them.
By being realistic and focusing on outcomes, the location in which a person works may be irrelevant. Trusting them and providing them with flexibility means they can work around their own personal situation, whatever it might be. This will help your employees to feel supported, as they are able to work around other commitments.
While it might be difficult when you’re not seeing your team, in person, day in and day out, avoid micromanaging them and let them know you trust them to get on with their work. Providing them with the reassurance they need will strengthen your relationship to the point that they feel comfortable raising any concerns with you.
Facilitate open and honest communications
Organisations have taken proactive steps to ensure their staff do not feel isolated. One way this has been achieved has been through increasing the regularity of communications.
Share good news stories from across the business, make sure your people are up to date with the latest company developments, communicate best practice and check in from time to time to see how each individual is coping.
When contacting your team on a regular basis, be sure to not constantly ask for updates on their work. Instead, make communication two-way by also keeping people informed about the good things happening across the team and company.
Importantly, let them know that they’re valued, as this will cultivate a sense of belonging among a divided team.
Ensuring everyone feels included becomes even more important when teams are divided and everyone isn’t physically present in the room. So, create a feeling of togetherness among your team and send out the message that their thoughts and feelings are appreciated even if they are working remotely.
There will undoubtedly be challenges – you cannot simply arrange a team call and hope everybody attends and shares their perspectives or ideas. It’s therefore important to try and connect people as best you can.
You can, for example, hold team events to bring those working from home together with those in the office. As well as more formal work events and regular team check-ins, arrange informal opportunities for staff to connect with one another.
Many organisations and teams have been achieving this through fun interactive weekly quizzes – having that social time together is essential and it will help to avoid a divide between those in the office and those at home.
Encourage a positive work-life balance
For those who continue to work from home, even if it’s only one or two days per week, their living and working spaces will have become one and the same. This makes it even more difficult to maintain a good work-life balance.
As a leader, you must ensure your team are giving themselves the time to switch off at the end of each working day and relax. So, look out for signs that this isn’t the case, such as emails being sent out of hours.
In such cases, make sure there is a clear distinction between working hours and non-working hours, depending on circumstances. Encourage your team to pack up their laptop at the end of the day and spend time with their family or friends, whether that’s in person or via a video call. Also, make sure your team is taking their full holiday allowance.
Increase focus on wellbeing programmes
One of the biggest positive changes we have seen during the pandemic has been the ramping up of wellbeing programmes.
Going forward, the mental health and wellbeing of employees should remain the primary concern as organisations move into the new hybrid working model.
Businesses can do this by arranging one-to-one meetings with staff or by holding mental health awareness events to help create an environment where employees are able to talk about their wellbeing or request support should they need it.
Also make sure your workforce has access to employee assistance programmes, which will provide them with the necessary support to help them address personal or professional problems that may be impacting their mental health or wellbeing.
Strike the right balance in the hybrid model
It’s vitally important to find the right balance between remote and onsite working. Forced working from home was a short-term response to the pandemic.
It’s unrealistic to expect that 100pc of your workforce can continue to work from home 100pc of the time. But it’s also unrealistic to think that your entire workforce should return to working exclusively from the office.
It is advisable to think about what ideal daily percentage of your workforce you could support working remotely without impacting client engagement, mental health or team culture. Whether it’s 20pc, 30pc, 50pc or more, you should expect this to become the norm as people look to continue working remotely.
Make sure you listen to everyone’s concerns, be understanding to their situation and support them in every possible way. This will ensure you are continuing to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing through the transition.
Be a role model
To really understand what good looks like, you need to be displaying the behaviour you expect from your team. So, take care of your own mental health and wellbeing and set the right example.
For instance, you must set your own clear hours and be sure not to send emails out of hours. Let it be known that you have a clear definition of when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax and exhibit a good work-life balance.
This will not only set a good example to your employees, but it will ensure that you are looking after your own mental health and wellbeing. No one is immune to the stress of everyday life and that includes you.
Nick Deligiannis is managing director at Hays Australia and New Zealand. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays blog.
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