Make Hybrid Work, Work with Less Burnout
Are we virtual today, in-person, in-person on alternate days, every other week, masked, unmasked, sometimes masked? And, by the way, does anyone have a rubber band? Huh?
My point in bringing up the ubiquitous, commonly used, taken-for-granted, rubber band is that our co-workers are hardly elastic. We have all had our limits, and many of us have gone beyond those limits over the past months.
According to Dr. Marra Ackerman, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health, “Burnout isn’t necessarily tied to forced productivity, or from not feeling a sense of purpose at a day job…many people are doing work they consider more important than ever. Rather, it’s that for the past 14 months there has been nothing but work. Many of us have been cut off from the people and activities that gave our life meaning before.”
When we were back in pre-pandemic times, we had more clear-cut divisions between work and play. Even in our workplaces, we had parties, get-together’s, conferences, trade shows and such. We “stretched” when we got stressed, but we usually returned to ourselves at the end of our work week.
Now, many of us feel stretched to the point of breaking; we feel like giving up. The rubber band is getting ready to snap. No wonder that Americans are walking away from their jobs in droves. Whether or not walking away is the answer is open for debate.
Quitting a six-figure computer programming job to launch a seashell jewelry business in Hawaii is appealing, but after a few months we could be right back where we started. In fact, stress and isolation along with the feeling of working all of the time may be as common a “rubber-band moment” working from an apartment in Manhattan as shipping seashell earrings from a condo on Kauai.
So, if we recognize we’re not rubber bands, and at the same time, understand that solutions are challenging, is there anything at all to be done? Of course, there is, but it will take us all to work together to make hybrid work, work.
Here’s why. The hybrid workplace is interesting in concept, but its dedication to flexibility (“We’ll play it by ear”) may be more troublesome than lockdown rigidity. For hybrid work to be successful, there must be rules and understandings.
I would like to offer “5 Ways to Make Hybrid Work, Work,” to help us all achieve a reversal of pandemic burnout and feel a sense of control over our life.
- Start with heart. A year-and-a-half after we were shut down, many of our co-workers, relatives and friends are psychologically beat-up. We’re ready to scream during the next conference call when someone still cannot recognize they are still on mute. Team members, co-workers, supervisors and vendors must recognize that if they’re feeling impatient or unmotivated chances are, so is the person on the other end of the videoconference, masked in-person meeting or digital communication. Honor that. In those moments, choose empathy for both yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to simply talk things out with clear, sincere, respectful communication.
- Clarity is key. In order to make hybrid work, work, we need clarity on communication rules and tools. How will we communicate? How often? Which channel? How will we respond? How will we set goals? How will we set ourselves up for success so that anyone can work on anything at any time of day and honor deadlines? Which collaborative platform will store our data and tools? Is this in one location and accessible at any time? If we’re meeting in-person, in an office, three mornings a week, and then if some of our co-workers prefer to go to the gym in the late afternoon and resume work in the evening, they shouldn’t have to go through a Sherlock Holmes routine to locate the right document.
- Let’s get realistic about meetings…please. Want to instantly relieve hybrid stress? Only invite people to meetings who MUST be there. Now that people can pop onto a virtual meeting, too many folks are being invited with the line, “if you want to attend.” Either they should be in the meeting – or not. Open-ended invitations create disengagement and sucks up the calendar. Furthermore, if you are having a meeting and half the team is in the office and half “at home,” the policy MUST be cameras on – no exceptions, no whining allowed. Rather than the office team gathering in the boardroom, best to log on to individual laptops from individual spaces to create a fair sense of play.
- Set an agenda, choose a facilitator. Having a meeting? Great! What’s the agenda? Who is facilitating? Who is holding individuals to the allotted times? Who types up the notes and places them in the appropriate platform? Who is responsible for next steps? Are meetings structured for 25 minutes, rather than 30, to give people time to take a bio break or simply reflect before the next meeting?
- In-office days. What was once “ho-hum,” is now precious. Days in the office are best reserved for collaborating, celebrating or meetings that demand tremendous interaction. Make these days count and strive for connection as social belonging is an essential piece of wellness. Hybrid work will work if we connect with one another, celebrate one another, take pride in one another and get through this time together.
To make hybrid work, really work is not to rely so much on technology or dry agendas than it is to celebrate the human heart and the humanity deep within each one of us.
I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for making hybrid work work, too!