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29 Mar 2022

Three ways to bolster your team’s mental fitness to cope with hybrid working

Breakfast with family, longer sleep, quieter space to focus, few unwelcome interruptions: you would be forgiven for thinking that hybrid working was one of the few perfect outcomes from a two-year long pandemic. It presents a crystal clear antidote for those employees who want to keep in-person social connections with colleagues and those who have found their true life balance in working from home. 

Views on working from home permanently are mixed at best, depending on the source. As many as half of the employees surveyed say they would rather remain working at home full-time with their compensation package unchanged. Close to one quarter of employers feel remote-only workers should be on adjusted salaries.  However, employers and employees are far more aligned on a hybrid model with around 90% of both agreeing that working in the office sometimes is a good idea and should result in compensation remaining unchanged. 

So surely that’s case closed – hybrid working for all who can is the way forward? Unfortunately it is not so simple in reality. Challenges start to emerge when hybrid means some employees come in very often and some hardly at all. What does this mean for office space requirements? And what does this do to the workplace culture and perhaps, most importantly, how can we guarantee equity between employees regardless of their workplace location? 

Psychological effect

We also need to consider the psychological impact of hybrid working. There is strong evidence to support the increased productivity among hybrid workers, but this comes at a price, with 70% reporting feeling isolated. Any hybrid working solution must consider the need for connection and how this can be implemented effectively. 

One such solution is a mental fitness and a mentally fit culture. Mental fitness is proficiency training in seven core skills that allow people to navigate the challenges of everyday life. As an example, one of those skills is connection where we develop the social skills to initiate and maintain contact with other people. Connection skills are central to reducing isolation as we use them to develop more deep and meaningful relationships with others. 

Where we encourage and practice mental fitness we start to see challenges as opportunities.For example, in a time of mass resignations we can retain staff by offering a truly flexible work offering. Having a mentally fit culture doesn’t mean there is suddenly an absence of pressure or stress, because that’s just the nature of work; it does mean that the way people approach these pressures is much more collaborative and driven by better decision-making. 

Building a mentally fit workplace means people feel able to contribute to team discussions, request and provide honest feedback and feel a sense of purpose in their job.

Hybrid working that works for you 

Hopefully you are already working towards building a mentally fit culture in your workplace, but to help you fully embed and reap the benefits, at Fika we recommend you include the following three evidence-based methods to cement it further. Most importantly, these methods work equally well for hybrid, remote or in office employees. 
1. Start with leaders: Managers who model positive mentally fit behaviours such as requesting feedback and putting it into place, behavioural integrity (do as they say AND do), being open to challenge, and being inclusive, create feelings of psychological safety in their teams. Teams are then more likely to engage in improving the quality of their work, their performance and their productivity is improved. They are also less likely to make mistakes or poor decisions. It is absolutely key here that leaders must display the behaviour first for teams to follow suit. 

2. Train as a team: Coming together for events, whether online or in person, creates a sense of belonging and purpose for employees. Using this shared time to build mental fitness skills brings a shared sense of understanding as to what the new normal is eg introducing workshops/training to give employees tools to learn how to speak up effectively, how to give honest and helpful feedback, and learning from group reflection. In one study, after introducing a team tools intervention, researchers found 78% of people now believed they could question decisions made by leaders, and 75% were no longer afraid to ask questions. Interventions specifically designed for a team and its context find more success than generic interventions.

3. Take time in: Taking time in is a way to ensure an ongoing culture of mental fitness, rather than a reactive culture which can often foster burnout. Calendar tools and training plans can help integrate mental fitness into teams’ everyday working to ensure they feel empowered to develop their mental fitness. By placing a 15 minute slot in team members’ calendar you’re showing you not only want to achieve a culture where making time for our mental fitness is the norm, but you’re giving employees the permission to take time in their day to work on this. Turning hybrid working into an opportunity, on days where employees work from home they can take some of what would have been a dreaded commute and spend it developing their own and their teams mental fitness skills. 

While hybrid working presents challenges, it also offers a tangible opportunity to implement innovative and effective initiatives to move forward with safer and mentally fitter cultures. 

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