Remote work is not harming our mental well-being. The lack of boundaries between work and life is
Remote and hybrid work is bad for the mental well-being of employees and leads to a sense of social isolation, meaninglessness and lack of boundaries between work and life, which is why we should all return to office-focused work, or so many say. traditionalist business gurus.
There is a “core psychological truth, which is that we want you to feel a sense of belonging and need… I know it is a pain to walk into the office, but if you are just sitting in your pajamas in your room, it is that work life that you want to live?” malcolm gladwell saying.
These office-focused traditionalists refer to a number of Featured articles about the dangers of remote work for mental well-being.
The problem with such claim (is it’s that they’re misleading: they decry the negative impact of remote and hybrid work on well-being, but overlook the damage to well-being caused by the alternative, i.e., office-focused work.
People would feel less isolated if they could hang out and have a beer with their friends instead of working. They could take care of their existing mental health problems if they could see a therapist. But that’s not in the cards. What’s on the cards is office-focused work. That means the frustration of a long trip to the office, sitting at his desk in a often uncomfortable and oppressive open plan office for eight hours, having a sad desk lunch Y unhealthy snacksand then even more frustration coming home.
So what happens when we compare apples to apples? That’s when we need to hear from the horse’s mouth: namely, surveys of the employees themselves, who experienced both in-office work before the pandemic and hybrid and remote work after the arrival of COVID.
Consider a 2022 poll by Cisco of 28,000 full-time employees worldwide. The majority of respondents (78%) said that remote and hybrid work improved their overall well-being. Of the small number who reported that their work-life balance had not improved or had even worsened, the number one reason cited by more than two-thirds of respondents is “difficulty disconnecting from work.”
Much of that improvement came from time saved from not having to travel and having more flexible hours: 64% saved at least four hours per week and 26% saved eight hours or more. What did you do with that extra time? The first choice of 44% was to spend more time with family, friends and pets, which certainly helped address the issue of workplace isolation. For 20%, the best option to invest that extra time was in personal care. In fact, 74% reported that working from home improved their family relationships and 51% said it strengthened their friendships. Some 82% report that the ability to work from anywhere has made them happier, and 55% report that such work reduced their stress levels.
Other surveys support Cisco’s findings. For example, a Forum of the Future 2022 poll compared knowledge workers working full time in the office, in a hybrid and fully remote mode. He found that full-time office workers were less satisfied with their work-life balance; hybrid workers were in the middle; and fully remote workers were more satisfied. The same distribution was applied to questions about stress and/or anxiety. A mental health website called Tracking Happiness found in a 2022 poll of more than 12,000 workers that fully remote employees report an approximately 20% higher level of happiness than those centric in the office.
What about the alleged burnout crisis associated with remote work?
It is a fallacy. Burnout has been on the rise, even before the widespread adoption of remote work. A 2018 survey conducted by Deloitte found that 77% of workers experienced burnout. Gallup scored a slightly lower number of 67% in its poll.
On the contrary, an April 2021 McKinsey poll found that 54% of Americans and 49% of those in the rest of the world reported feeling exhausted. As of September 2021 poll by the Hartford reported 61% depletion. Given that we had so much more fully remote or hybrid work at the height of the pandemic, full-time or part-time remote opportunities arguably reduced burnout, rather than increased it. In fact, that finding aligns with previous surveys and peer-reviewed research suggesting remote and hybrid work improve well-being.
In a late 2022 Gallup poll, 71% of respondents said that compared to office work, hybrid work improves work-life balance and 58% reported less burnout. When asked about burnout among workers who were able to work fully remotely, those who were fully focused in the office had burnout rates of 35% and engagement rates of 30%. By contrast, 37% of hybrid workers were engaged and 30% were burned out. For remote workers, the engagement rate was 37% and burnout 27%, further debunking the remote work burnout myth.
Still, while generally better for well-being, remote and hybrid work have specific downsides when it comes to separating work and life. A address work life issuesI advised my clients whom I helped transition to hybrid and remote work to establish standards and policies focused on clear expectations and setting limits.
Some people expect their Slack or Microsoft Teams’ messages need to be answered within an hour, while others check Slack once a day. Some believe that the email requires a response within three hours, and others feel that three days is fine.
As a result of such uncertainty and lack of clarity about what is appropriate, many people feel uncomfortable disengaging. They respond to messages or perform work tasks after hours. That could be due to a fear of not meeting your boss’s expectations or not wanting to let down your colleagues.
To solve this problem, companies need to set and incentivize clear expectations and boundaries. Develop policies and standards around response times for different communication channels and clarify the boundaries between your employees’ work and personal lives.
Setting boundaries between work and life doesn’t mean that employees should never work outside of normal business hours. However, if such after-hours work occurs consistently more often outside of emergency situations, there is an issue you need to address.
Also, for working at home and collaborating with others, there’s an unhealthy expectation that once you start your workday in your home office chair, you’ll be working continuously while sitting there (except during your lunch hour). This is not how things work in a physical office, which has built-in breaks throughout the day. It took him five to 10 minutes to walk from one meeting to the next, or he went to get his copies from the printer and chatted with a coworker on the way.
Studies show Physical and mental breaks reduce burnout, improve productivity, and reduce errors. That’s why companies should strongly encourage employees to take at least a 10-minute break every hour during remote work. At least half of those breaks should include physical activitysuch as stretching or walking, to counteract the dangerous effects from sitting for a long time. Other breaks should be restful mental activities, such as meditationbrief Napsor anything else you find refreshing.
To facilitate those breaks, My clients like the University of Southern California Institute of Information Sciences, cut hour-long meetings to 50 minutes and half-hour meetings to 25 minutes, to give everyone mental and physical rest and transition time.
You can do the vast majority of what you normally do in an hour-long meeting in 50 minutes. Just remember to start ending at the 40 minute mark and at the 20 minute mark for meetings that are 25 minutes long. Very few people will resist having shorter meetings.
After that works, move on to other aspects of setting boundaries and expectations that facilitate work-life balance. Doing so will require helping team members stay on the same page and reduce conflict and tension.
By setting clear expectations and boundaries, you’ll address the biggest wellness challenge for remote and hybrid workers: the boundaries between work and life. As for the other issues, the research It clearly shows that, overall, remote and hybrid workers have better well-being and less burnout than in-office workers working in the same roles.
Gleb Tsipursky, PhD, helps executives drive collaboration, innovation, and retention in hybrid work. He serves as CEO of the boutique consultancy Future of Work. Disaster prevention experts. He is the best-selling author of seven books, including Never Follow Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters Y Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Primer on Best Practice Benchmarking for Competitive Advantage. His experience comes from more than 20 years of consultant for Fortune 500 companies aflac a photocopy Y more than 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State.
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