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Is hybrid working a ticking time bomb for mental health?

To prevent work-related stress and disengagement, workplaces must give workers the tools to build a compassionate culture says Yannic Laleeuwe, segment marketing director (workplace) at Barco

The past three years of hybrid working have been tough. The global pandemic, followed by economic uncertainty means that now, more than ever, people should come together at home and at work. But has the current state of the modern workplace left employees atomised and separated? 

New research from Barco suggests that employees are not only stressed out, fragmented, and becoming disengaged, 2 in 3 state they find it more difficult to spot these signs in colleagues who are working remotely. Furthermore, with almost two-thirds (65%) of the workforce working hybrid, over a quarter (27%) are experiencing chronic stress related burnout. Hybrid working, which promised to afford employees the flexibility to work around their own commitments, could now be creating an environment where workers struggle in silence, under the radar of management. Businesses must now step up to tackle this ticking mental health time bomb.

Surveying 5,000 white-collar employees across the globe, our research found that in today’s hybrid workplace almost a quarter (23%) of staff are ‘quiet quitting’ as they disengage from work due to poor management. Technology overload – when excessive use of devices reduces their capacity to accomplish their work and an inability to “switch off” from work devices after hours were also highlighted as major causes of concern by over a quarter (28%) of respondents.

While the freedoms granted by hybrid working are already ingrained in the fabric of the modern workforce, the picture this research paints is concerning. Burdened by a lack of effective communication with their team, there could be a growing cohort who feel silenced while their stress levels go unnoticed. The potential for this to trigger mental health crises could have serious ramifications on employee retention unless addressed.

It is clear therefore, that the learnings from the past three years of hybrid working need to be implemented at pace. Collaboration and interpersonal communication lie at the heart of every business and must work for everyone in the organisation, not just those in the office. For a workplace to be compassionate and equitable, employees need to feel heard, and organisations must provide a technological backbone that enables employees to communicate seamlessly.

Embracing meeting equity, where everyone in the hybrid workplace has equal opportunity to communicate and contribute, regardless of location, is one way organisations can build a compassionate and inclusive culture. By making it more intuitive for employees to communicate the pressures they face and empower managers to identify indicators of workplace stress, organisations can take steps to avoid employee disengagement and retain the boosts to staff wellbeing that hybrid work originally promised.

After three years of hybrid, businesses are running out of time to get it right. Research by the CIPD suggests that 1 in 5 UK workers are likely to quit their jobs by June 2023, as the search for greater work-life balance tempts them elsewhere.

By empowering employees with the tools they need to be seen and heard, wherever they may be working from and ensuring that collaboration is equitable, organisations can create a connected culture in a hybrid world and mitigate the disruption of churn.

The survey commissioned by Barco was conducted by 3Gem between the dates of November 4 and November 14, 2022. The survey was completed by 5,000 office workers across France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States (1,000 of each per in France, Germany and the UK, and 2,000 in the US).