Following the Covid-19 pandemic it comes as no surprise that most Australian workplaces have adapted to a hybrid way of working, balancing between a work from home and an in the office system. Each business has adapted differently with the outcomes being mostly positive, allowing employees the flexibility to work where suits best for them with some workers choosing to remain working completely remote. However, new research has suggested that not having the right balance of “hybrid” working is contributing to a rising rate of loneliness amongst working Australians. Let’s take a dive into this research and speak to our own A-HA professionals to see what companies can do to fix the imbalance of remote and office working for the health and safety of their workers.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have conducted several surveys and studies comparing loneliness amongst Australians during and after the pandemic with more than 50% feeling lonelier since the beginning of the pandemic. With face-to-face social interaction levels failing to return to pre-pandemic levels, of the proportion of adults who met socially with other people less often than once a week have risen to 54.8 per cent in April 2022 compared to February 2020 where it was at a lower 41.4 percent. Many may ask well what has this got to do with having a “hybrid” or “remote” workplace? Well, working in an office does a couple of things, including increasing our autonomy and relatedness to others. This is important because when you don’t have that feeling of belonging or connectedness it raises feelings of anxiousness, isolation, and loneliness. So, although an office might not be necessary for productivity in terms of effectively working it still has benefits when making you feel connected to your co-workers through in-office interactions.
So, what can be done about it? New research finds it’s important that companies find the right balance for their workers ensuring they are able to get the best of both worlds when it comes to hybrid working. Dr Knight says research show that “If you get connection with colleagues, when you’re in the office, say three days a week, it actually stops you feeling so lonely”. She also mentions its important the discussion around finding the right hybrid balance should be actively discussed around the office and ensuring employees don’t think it’s just their problem to solve on their own. Businesses must be looking after their employees whether they are in the office or not and finding time to communicate with them to find whether their remote or hybrid working situation is in fact, working.
Chatting to our own HR expert Kat who herself runs a hybrid team, she shares great tips for businesses when it comes to caring for your employees in a flexible working environment: ‘Hybrid working is now the new norm. But given what we know about the increased prevalence of loneliness, isolation and anxiety; it is more incumbent than ever on employers to put in place systems for regularly ensuring genuine human connection between people and cultivating an enduring sense of team and belonging. It’s not rocket science but ensure that you have regular, recurring check ins with every team member and spend at least 10 min talking about non-work things. When a check in is solely task based you lose most of the personal connection. Schedule regular in office get togethers like morning teas and require the whole team to come in so you have a chance to say hello face to face and really gauge how they are doing. Finally, require people to be on camera in internal online meetings, humans respond to other human faces and smiles, it’s all part of the interactions we seek to feel connected’.
It’s not only the right thing to do for the happiness and engagement of your team but what all employers need to do to ensure that you are providing a healthy and safe place to work no matter where that work is being done in this new expanded remote working environment.