Is the World More Stressed Out? Is Hybrid Work Really Working Out?

Gallup’s latest annual Global Emotions Report found out that the second year of the pandemic was even a more difficult time than the first one. The Year 2021 offered a myriad of uncertainties across different sectors of society. It’s no surprise Gallup noted that the globe became slightly sadder – stressed out even – by the impacts of a global pandemic.

The organization’s analysis consists of responses from adults in 122 countries. Gallup asked them whether they experienced five different negative emotions on the day before the survey and used this information to come up with an index.

Stress, worry, sadness, and even physical pain were noticeably trending upward in 2021 even if these experiences were already at a record high at the end of 2020. About 42% of adults reported having negative experiences that led them to feel worried while 41% reported experiences of feeling stress amid the pandemic.

In the United States, depression rates tripled in October 2021 since the pandemic hit. According to Boston University’s research, the evidence of the sustained prevalence of symptoms of depression is suggesting that the burden of the pandemic on mental health has been “unequaled.” 

Another study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that Americans mentioned they’re having difficulty in making even the most basic decisions due to stress brought by the pandemic. Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA’s chief executive officer, says that the pandemic has forced a regimen of constant risk assessment upon individuals ever since it started. He further elaborates that sustaining such vigilance obviously burdens one’s mental state.

The evidence of negative emotions is just too obvious to deny. But have businesses ever dared to look beyond the common experiences that might have caused these negative emotions?

For instance, hybrid work. There is not a lot of talk about this being a cause of negative emotions. For some employers, hybrid work provides workers the best of both in-office and remote workplaces. 

On the other hand, there are employees who prefer the hybrid workplace model despite the spotlight that fully remote workplaces have been given. Gensler conducted its own study and discovered that most of its respondents consisted of office workers who considered hybrid work the best option since they considered the office the optimal location to collaborate and build relationships with colleagues

However, other workers claim that hybrid workplaces can cause a lot of stress and can be emotionally taxing. They say that the constant switch between the two types of workplaces is incredibly draining. Moreover, they claim the consistent feeling of never being settled is counterproductive. 

This means that organizations that require some form of hybrid workplace setup need to refine their workplace model. Elora Voyles, TINYPulse’s people scientist, suggests that management might be one of the root causes of why things go wrong with the hybrid work arrangement. She further advises organizations to have better communication between workers and managers.

To add, Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of Stack Overflow, an online developer community, agrees with Voyles’ sentiments that management will play a critical role in making remote and hybrid models work. He explains that the pandemic has been a turning point where business leaders are beginning to embrace flexibility at work.

While experts emphasize that there is no perfect workplace model, employers can mitigate numerous negative emotions by polishing their working arrangements to cater to the majority of their workforce.

Great Place to Work encourages businesses to view hybrid work as the combination of workplace systems, behaviors, and values rather than sticking within the boundaries of flexibility. 

The firm provides ways how leaders are achieving hybrid success in the workplace. Let’s dive deeper into them so HR and global mobility leaders can get some insights on this matter. 

Trusting employees. Since full-in-office workplaces usually entail having managers and supervisors possess more control over their team members, it can become a difficult transition to remote or hybrid models. Leaders often need to develop trust that employees can get the job done from any location.

If leaders do find themselves in a difficult spot, people organizers such as HR and global mobility professionals need to have systems set up in place to determine whether business leaders need support in this area.

Listening to the employees. The lack of human connection is one of the more prominent disadvantages of any form of remote work. That’s why leaders need to take advantage of the wider reach that technology equips their organizations. Despite it being discouraged to micromanage employees in hybrid workplaces, it is still important to maintain trust and equality in the workplace by actively soliciting employee feedback. Besides, the only way business leaders know whether hybrid workspaces are effective is to ask the main proponents – the workers.

Empowering the employees. Business leaders often leverage external information to create a working space they think is suitable for their organization. However, successful hybrid companies aren’t fearful of placing their own employees as one of the key drivers of creating a workplace that best fits their needs as well as the whole company.

Take EY as an example. The multinational firm created the “Design Council.” This team consists of employees across departments, functions, regions, and positions, and was selected on the basis of its ability to take on the role of change champions. Together, the Design Council collaborated to create the firm’s “Ways of Working” guidance.

Treat employees equally. When a workforce is scattered, the susceptibility for business leaders to lean positively more toward onsite employees than their remote counterparts is quite high. It’s important for managers and supervisors to become more intentional with every worker and even go a step further by demonstrating career opportunities to all employees.