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The Surprising Truths About Hybrid Work and Burnout

Three things every leader needs to know.

Key points

  • Much has been written recently about the negative impact hybrid work appears to be having on workers’ well-being.
  • A new study shows that hybrid workers report higher levels of psychological safety, direct supervisor support, and autonomy.
  • Hybrid workers reported higher levels of unachievable job demands compared to workers located at home and at work premises.
 RichVintage/iStock
Source: RichVintage/iStock

While much has been written recently about the negative impact hybrid work appears to be having on workers’ well-being, new research from The Wellbeing Lab and the Australian HR Institute, Growth Faculty, NeuroPower Group, and Pioneera has found these are not the workers most likely to be feeling burned out.

“Unfortunately, more than two-thirds (68.5%) of the 1,009 Australian workers surveyed reported feeling burnt out,” explained Danielle Jacobs, a psychologist and co-founder of The Wellbeing Lab. “These burned-out workers were more likely to be located at their work premises (51.9%) than to be working from home (16.1%), working in a hybrid model (11.3%), or traveling for work (7.1%).”

In fact, the study found that hybrid workers were significantly more likely to report that they were living well, despite struggles, and, despite the recent productivity paranoia, these workers were just as engaged and performing as well as their work-premises colleagues. So, why might this be the case?

The report found three surprising truths about hybrid workers:

  • They reported higher levels of psychological safety. Hybrid workers were significantly more likely to feel able to bring up problems and be honest about mistakes with their teams. Researchers have found this is an important factor in team success, as it supports productive conflict, enables mistakes to be readily discussed and failures to be mitigated, and creates a climate that increases innovation and accountability.
  • They reported higher levels of direct supervisor support. Hybrid workers were more likely to report that they received the support required from their direct supervisor, with their colleagues located at their work premises close behind. Given the significant impact leaders have been found to have on workers, the benefits for worker well-being and performance should not be underestimated.
  • They reported higher levels of autonomy. Hybrid workers were more likely to report that they had choices about how they went about their work, with their colleagues located at home closely behind. Researchers have found that when people are trusted to get their work done, they are likely to be more engaged, motivated, and satisfied in their jobs.

The data do not suggest that hybrid workers don’t struggle. For example, they reported higher levels of unachievable job demands (52.6 percent) compared to workers located at home (45.3 percent) and those located at work premises (34.9 percent).

However, the challenges of hybrid work appear to be moderated by the advantages of the time these workers spend in their work premises (i.e., more direct supervisor support), the time they spend working at home (i.e., more autonomy), and their ability to talk about what’s working well and where they are struggling in their teams (i.e., more psychological safety).

By understanding these important differences, leaders can not only support hybrid workers better but also consider how they leverage these advantages more evenly across all workers regardless of their work locations.

How are you intelligently balancing the well-being needs of your workers?

For a full copy of the research report, please click here.

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