We’ve become closely acquainted with both the benefits and pitfalls of working from home since the start of the pandemic. And – whatever your personal preference – it has led to a lot of organisations opting for a hybrid setup moving forward, where team members are able to work from home some days, and required to come into the office on others. So what are the things to look out for when transitioning into a new environment? We spoke with Elke Van Hoof, CEO of Better Minds at Work and author of the recently published book ‘The Mental Reset’. “The past two years have been an experiment in resilience for all of us.”
'If anything, the pandemic has created the momentum to embrace the best of both worlds: seeing each other in person to foster personal connection and working from home to enhance focus when needed most.'
“Any period of transition is impactful, but the past two years have been a real-time experiment in mental resilience. Unsurprisingly, stress and burnout are on the rise. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review they became ‘rampant’ in 2020. And right when our energy levels are low, we’re being asked to experiment with hybrid workplaces. When we do go back to the workplace again, that is. Thankfully, employers are becoming more aware and are placing a lot of focus on the employee. If there is one good thing to come from the pandemic, it has to be this new level of understanding of the human factor,” says Elke.
Preparing for Transition
“Evolving into a hybrid workplace is a period of transition. And as with any transition, preparation is key. You need to organise inclusive sessions that explain what the rules and expectations are going to be, and what hybrid working means to your company. Additionally, you want to invite experts who can inspire people and bolster mental resilience; who can talk about how to stay focussed, even when working from home. Change management is a combination of good internal communication, and informing people on the goals and the road to them.”
“It’s important to remember to differentiate between how you work from home and how you work in the workplace. In the office we have regular breaks that allow our brains to recuperate. The proverbial coffee breaks and water cooler chats, sharing lunch at the same table, commuting to and from work; they all give our brains some much-needed time to rest and reset. When you’re working from home, the tendency is to just keep going until whatever you’re working on is finished. But these breaks provide you with the energy to keep going. A lot of what we do is about inspiring people to recognise when they are in a healthy, positive flow or just powering on through by willpower.”
“We’re all responsible for recognising each other’s alarm signals. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – both mentally and cognitively – from not being able to concentrate properly, or memory loss, to being short tempered. The things that wouldn’t bother us normally become magnified when our brains don’t get the chance to take a little ‘breather’ every once in a while. Equally, physical signs like palpitations, sweating, headaches and neck pains, or trouble sleeping at night are all signs that your resilience is low.”
“If anything, the pandemic has created the momentum to embrace the best of both worlds: seeing each other in person to foster personal connection and working from home to enhance focus when needed most. At the end of the day (or working week), a good balance between these two means you should be feeling more energetic and are enjoying work more. Of course, just as each individual is different, so are their jobs. People who need to work in full focus will benefit more from being away from the busy office floor than someone who has a coordinating role. When preparing your hybrid workplace policy, it’s important to take these difference into account.”
Meeting a few times a week as a team ensures you don’t end up with a situation where who is in the office on which days mushrooms into something wholly uncontrolled. You have to create structure and touch base in person on a regular basis. Additionally, you need to communicate clearly. You’ll often see people are a lot more business-minded during online meetings, whereas meetings in real life allow for the all-important ‘how was your weekend’s’ that help give your brain a break. Allow for time wasted: it’s a lot more valuable than you might think. Chitchat helps foster that human connection, no matter how much people have come to appreciate the efficiency of online meetings. So make sure you integrate them in the digital workplace.”
“Our work persona is just one of our many faces, and the pandemic has taught us that showing more of our authentic persona helps establish better personal connections. We have all changed or grown in different ways these past years. We’ve had time to reflect on what we are doing and where we want to go from here. For myself, the pandemic has shown me the importance of spending quality time with my two young children and I’m now actively choosing to free up more time for them. I suspect a lot of people have gained new insights about their personal and professional lives and how they wish to live them post-COVID. The choice to do something with these insights and change long-standing habits is the Mental Reset we should all make if we want to live happier and more energetic lives.”
For your copy of The Mental Reset visit https://bettermindsatwork.com/en/boeken/
6 Steps Towards Stronger Resilience
- Preparation is key: be clear about what the new workplace is going to look like, what the expectations are, and bring in the experts that will inspire and enthuse your team.
- Learn to recognise the difference between a healthy creative flow and powering through on sheer willpower. Give your brain regular breaks.
- Learn to recognise when your brain is in distress, and don’t be afraid to talk to others when you see them struggling.
- Embrace the best of both worlds and be open to the fact that no two jobs are the same, just as no two people are the same.
- Create structure, but allow for time wasted: build in time to share those personal moments that give your brain a break and re-energise you.
- Take the time to reflect on what you’ve learned about yourself, your priorities, and where you want to go from here.