Experiencing burnout? Hybrid working could be to blame.

Hybrid working is our future. Yet for high-achieving individuals, working both on site and from home can all too easily lead to burnout. No longer being able to leave work at the office, we are ‘always on’ and find it harder to find that critical recharging time.

Here’s a thought. What does “at work” mean for you these days?

For growing numbers of us, “at work” is no longer a synonym for “at the office”. Remote working – whether it be working from home, from another city or even from another country – is no longer a novelty. And as more and more organisations make every effort to appeal to a young, woke workforce demanding greater flexibility and a better work/life balance, the ability to offer remote working opportunities may rapidly become not only normal, but a necessity.

Fortunately, keeping your distance doesn’t have to be disruptive: there’s no reason why your usual in-office efficiency should unravel in an out-of-office environment. And just to ensure it doesn’t, we’ve put together a few helpful tips:

High-achievers put more pressure on themselves than anyone can exert externally. And working under pressure for too long means the valves will blow at some point. This year, three of our top health chiefs announced their resignations, all in the same week. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was the first to call time, citing stress as the reason for leaving his top post. You don’t have to be a medical doctor like Bloomfield to recognise a work-related burnout, only now the triggers are office and home.  

Hybrid work is the new norm – some time at the office, the rest at home. There are global predictions that up to a quarter of workers in advanced economies will work permanently on a hybrid basis. Michael Barnett, Chief Executive of The Auckland Business Chamber, confirms ‘it’s not a fad, it’s here to stay’.

Hybrid brings benefits and costs

For knowledge workers, this new way of working has dual benefits of enhanced mobility and freedom. But the new work style also means employees need to learn new skills to maintain a productive and healthy work environment. While for employers, the shift to a placeless and timeless dimension for work means they will have to work a lot harder to attract and retain talent. 

PEPworldwide:nz coach Jason Hewitt says the pandemic-induced lockdowns have created a completely different environment to what we’ve known in the past, and people need to develop new habits or risk burnout. 

‘We see teams working longer hours and putting a lot of pressure on themselves to perform. They’ve forgotten about the importance of downtime and maintaining clarity of thought. 

‘The high-achievers overestimate what they can get done in a day or a week, and as they get pulled in all directions, across more platforms than ever before, they can feel like they are slowly sinking.’ 

The source of digital exhaustion

Before the Internet became mainstream, people could see their inbox – the paper-based files literally sat on their desk. Once communications moved to email, inboxes became less visible. And now communications are multiplatform – email, social media, chat, task management tools, Intranets, Cloud drives – your inbox is virtually impossible to picture. 

This lack of visibility can feel like lack of control and cause anxiety. Workers can go into a tailspin, frantically shifting from one task to another. Communications are jumbled with tasks and to-dos, and people can no longer see all their work in one place. 

And working remotely means even more digital messages not less, as the opportunity for face-to-face ‘bump’ meetings is halved. Add to this the distractions and interruptions in the home environment and people are pulled in all directions. We’re experiencing an era of notification overload and people simply can’t disconnect.

By Friday the important focus tasks are still not done, as people have been pulled to the urgent tasks. So how do they keep up? They work on the weekends at the expense of critical recharging time.

Reading the signs

Most people are never taught how to work in this environment. Most of us learn by trial and error. We develop habits that ‘get us by’. 

‘Leaders have to learn to see the warning signs in their team,’ says Hewitt. ‘The symptoms can be quite subtle, such as an inability to focus or being uncharacteristically quiet or they see the standard of work drop. Leaders can engage in more frequent, open conversations and encourage people to say “I’m not ok”.’ 

One of the biggest pain points of hybrid working is the inability to disconnect. ‘We have to teach people how to work well,’ says Hewitt. ‘It won’t make the work go away – it doesn’t stop the crazy – but it means you can control work rather than work controlling you.’

Learning new skills for the new environment

In an ideal workplace, people need to work smarter, not harder. They need to seamlessly manage the macro and micro moments that make up the day; to learn the art of ‘slowing down to speed up’; to turn notifications off; to stop switching between platforms and tasks, leaving jobs only half done.

People can learn to deal with competing priorities through the skill of filtering, so they can focus their time, energy and attention on what matters most. And they can learn how and when to switch off, to give themselves permission to do so. When it comes to productivity habits, is it often the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.

‘Organisations invest a lot on software, but we believe ‘humanware’ is more crucial to productivity at work, job satisfaction and therefore talent retention,’ says Hewitt. ‘Well-rested people naturally do better work, with more joy and energy, and can uplift their colleagues and family to do the same. It’s a virtuous cycle.’

Embedding new habits

People who join the PEP coaching programmes have usually experienced some of the above frustrations. Our courses and workshops are designed for individuals who want to work better, to get rid of bad habits, and find a more enjoyable and controlled way of working.

‘Like athletes who keep honing the top two inches for incremental but noticeable improvement, we provide that for high-performers in the business world,’ says Hewitt. 

Find out how PEP can grow your team’s wellbeing and increase their productivity by getting in contact with us here.

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