Maintaining work life balance and tips to manage a hybrid work environment

One of the main concerns of today’s workforce is the concept and acceptance of ‘work-life’ balance. The definition of ‘work-life’ balance, according to the dictionary, is; the division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities. Over the last 2-3 years, the world has seen the ‘work-life’ balance in its most extreme form across many industries, but this hasn’t necessarily created a good outcome, as the ‘work-life’ balance is supposed to do. For example, businesses and individuals working from home may have been faced with distractions such as home-schooling children, general housework and errands that have been put aside, and catching up on Netflix’s latest series (while answering emails of course!). These distractions impact the ‘work’ side of the ‘work-life’ balance, potential causing lack of productivity and motivation. On the other hand, the immediate access that businesses and individuals have to their laptop or home office while working from home can create work overload as you are constantly being exposed to emails, phone calls, and meetings, making it difficult to “switch off” from work, outside of work hours. 

So, how do you make the ‘work-life’ balance…well, balance? They key is a hybrid work environment. A hybrid work environment is a flexible work structure in which employees have the option to split their work hours between working remotely and working from a central location or office. A hybrid work environment also involves the use of a range of communication software to ensure that employees stay connected while they may not be all in one location. It is important for businesses to offer their employees with the opportunity to create and maintain a sustainable ‘work-life’ balance, as it can lead to a healthier workplace culture, improvements in employee mental health and well-being, improved productivity & motivation, and decreased staff turnover. If the opportunity to create and maintain a sustainable ‘work-life’ balance is not offered to employees, businesses can expect increased staff absenteeism and illness due to burnout, decreased quality and quantity of work, and unnecessary staff turnover.

Now that we have had a look at the importance of work life balance, let’s look at how to manage a hybrid working environment to balance the ‘work-life’ balance. 

1. Set clear expectations and accountability

One of the most important things to consider when working in a hybrid work environment with your employees is setting clear expectations and accountability, as it will ensure employees are working efficiently & productively and will communicate to staff who is doing what. 

2. Ensure fairness between stationed and remote employees

This involves offering the same opportunities and providing the same amount of support to employees regardless of where they are working. Of course, there may be some opportunities, tasks, and support services that may not suit employees based on their working location, however, employers should always ensure that fairness is implemented into a hybrid work environment so that no animosity is created between employees and yourself as the employer.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

The only way for a hybrid work environment to be successful is if there is clear, concise, and constant communication! There are many software services and applications available to businesses that can be used to effectively manage a hybrid work environment – these include Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom. The 3 most important and necessary aspects of a workplace to communicate to your hybrid working team are staff work schedules and locations, tasks, and company and team decisions.

Staff work schedules, whereabouts, & absences
With staff based in different physical locations, make sure everyone knows and understands where & when each team member will be working. Sharing work schedules and creating a shared group calendar where employees can indicate where they’ll be working each day and what hours will help to keep your team of employees cohesive and aware. It is also important to share information about staff whereabouts (e.g. at an off-site meeting) & absences. 

Tasks
It is important to communicate to your team what tasks within the business they are responsible for by setting clear expectations and accountability. Using spreadsheets and applications are both great ways to ensure your staff have clear direction and goals regarding completing tasks. 

Company & team decisions
The final aspect of a workplace that is important to communicate to your employees within a hybrid working environment is company and team decisions. This allows for transparency, making employees feel valuable and considered. This will provide your employees with a clearer overview of the strategic direction of the organisation, while minimising any sense that they feel out of the loop.

4. Focus on mental health and wellbeing

While a hybrid workplace has many benefits, your remote workers may have the feeling of being isolated or lonely. It can be difficult to spot when an employee is struggling. To ensure that you are focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of your staff in a hybrid workplace, offer support services and set up frequent check-ins to discuss with your employees how they are really feeling. 

5. Create occasions to physically bring your team together

The last tip to manage a hybrid work environment is make sure you create occasions to physically bring your team together for example, off-site team building workshops, and events such as a team lunch. By doing this, you are allowing your staff to maintain human connection, catch-up in a social setting, and get to know each other, which can furthermore aid team unity, harmony, and morale.