The pandemic has changed the workplace dynamic, and many would say it's for the better. More than 70% of workers would like to continue having remote work options, while 65% prefer a return to in-person workspaces. Businesses all around the country have begun to implement the “hybrid workspace” model, which involves a combination of remote and in-person work, which shifts depending on the agreement between an employee and their workplace.
Maintaining a work-life balance is more important than ever in this hybrid landscape. Before the pandemic, a healthy work-life balance was challenging for employees and businesses. With the added obscurity of managing time out of the office, breaks, and work expectations, the hybrid workplace hasn’t made it more accessible. Companies and employees must prioritize a healthy work-life balance.
A unique issue that arises with a hybrid workplace model is over-collaboration. Since the pandemic, companies like Microsoft have reported an increase of 42% of chats sent after hours and double the amount of time spent in weekly meetings.
Collaborative overload is exhausting and distracting employees. A study conducted by cognitive psychologists shows that responding to a message can cause up to a 64-second recovery time to get back on track. A slightly more significant interruption can cause an employee 23 minutes to get back to their original task. As a result of these distractions, employees tend to feel more stressed, frustrated, and pressured by time. Employees who are satisfied with their work-life balance attend 25% fewer meetings and spend six fewer hours per week collaborating than those with a poor work-life balance.
Another problem is the allocation of time off. Microsoft employees’ vacation time dropped by 83% in the pandemic because they stayed in the pandemic home and avoided travel. This negatively affected their work-life balance as employees in the U.S who took vacation during March/April 2020 had an 8% higher perception of a healthy work-life balance. Employees need to take time off and recharge.
Companies are aware of this issue and have implemented different strategies to help their employees. For example, a couple of life science organizations are using network analysis to analyze calendars, identifying ways to reduce the number of redundant meetings. The Harvard Business Review identifies some tactics that make people 18 to 24% more efficient. These practices include blocking out reflective time based on personal rhythms, using triage rules in email, and standing meetings to solve problems quicker.
The improvement of an employee's work-life balance relies heavily on managers' leadership.
Managers must encourage prioritization in the workplace. As a leader, it is crucial to understand that it is nearly impossible to get everything done, so tasks must be segmented and assigned different importance and urgency to be completed. Additionally, to address the issue of having appropriate time off, companies should encourage the ability to unplug and rest on the weekends. Companies may also take after the steps of other organizations like Microsoft, which redefined sick leave to include mental health days.
To provide support during an employee's vacation time, managers can offer to cover the employee’s work while they are gone and implement systems that minimize the number of emails and work an employee on vacation must return to.
Moving forward, leadership needs to empower managers to make decisions that best suit their team, whether defining meeting and in-office expectations or adopting a new piece of technology that will aid in productivity. Managers are the critical drivers of success going forward.
Companies need to adapt to the changes necessary in a hybrid workspace to set employees up for success. Ensuring that employees have a healthy work-life balance will improve the well-being of each employee and encourage a proactive work environment overall.
By taking the appropriate measures, companies can reduce the probability of burnout, anxiety, and other health issues among their employees. Respecting an employee's time off, general health, and overall workload will help build trust and community within a company.
Lomit Patel is the Senior Vice President of Growth at Together Labs (formerly IMVU). Before Together labs, Lomit managed growth at early-stage startups, including Roku (IPO), TrustedID (acquired by Equifax), Texture (acquired. by Apple), and EarthLink. Lomit is a public speaker, author, advisor, and recognized as a Mobile Hero by Liftoff. Lomit's book Lean AI, part of Eric Ries' best-selling "The Lean Startup" series, is now available at Amazon.