In 2021, organizations across the globe began introducing the hybrid work model — a way of allowing employees to work from home or the office indefinitely. Understanding how the hybrid work model operates and what to expect can be challenging. We spoke with Sophie Bonneau, a leadership coach who owns and operates Queen Bee Coaching and is a part of the Inkblot network of lifestyle coaches. Bonneau helps us understand how employees should approach this new way of working.
What is the hybrid work model?
The hybrid work model is a structure that allows employees to work remotely and spend dedicated time in the office. How the system operates could vary by office. Some organizations may offer flexibility around which days employees are to be in-office or a dedicated amount of hours per week or month. In a report conducted by the KPMG in 2021, 43 per cent of Canadian CEOs say they expect to have most employees working remotely at least two days per week.
Understanding the difference between positive and negative stress at work
A crucial step in managing work stress is communication. “People need to be advocates for themselves. They need to be empowered and be prepared to have conversations around what they need, what may or may not be sustainable and voice any conditions that impede their ability to navigate the workplace successfully. A lot of courage and vulnerability are needed for those conversations. We, as employees, need to be accountable for what we need, and that includes a responsibility to speak up,” she explains.
Bonneau helps us understand the difference between positive and negative stress at work.
Positive work stress
“Positive work stress can often provide fuel and energy — it’s dynamic and can provide a lift in the body physiologically. When you’re in a positive work stress mode, there is still a sense of pride and accomplishment in relation to what you create and how you collaborate with your team.”
Negative work stress
“Negative work stress is no longer energizing. Instead, it’s draining and exhausting. You’re no longer lifting — you’re starting to feel the weight in the other direction (i.e. weighed down). Sometimes there is an inability to focus or feel productive.”
Managing burnout in the workplace
Workplace burnout can manifest in many ways. One of the more common triggers is our inability to log off and get back to ourselves. “Burnout in its simplest terms is the inability to recharge your battery. You’re in a coping mode, and it can take more time to bounce back. It’s not as simple as a weekend break or a vacation. Unfortunately, we often don’t address burnout until it’s already happening. There are signals to indicate that we are entering a realm of burnout, but we’ve become good at suppressing or discounting them; they often get ignored,” Bonneau explains.
Bonneau recommends having open conversations about burnout in the workplace. “Talking about the importance of mental health, including access to platforms like Inkblot Therapy, can help provide employees with a coach or therapist that can benefit them during the pandemic and long after. It’s about creating an environment where no one feels left alone or without support,” she says.
Learn more: What leaders need to know about the hybrid work model
The importance of celebrating success and accomplishments at work
In addition to advocating for ourselves and exploring mental health tools to navigate things like stress and anxiety, depression and burnout, we should also be taking time to celebrate our work success and accomplishments.
Bonneau encourages employees and leaders alike to find moments worth celebrating and dedicating time to let them shine. “We’re always on to the next thing, and as a result, we don’t stop to celebrate our success and accomplishments. There is a future-forward emphasis for many organizations, which means you are never in the present to celebrate what’s been done because you are already on to the next thing. This way of operating can take a toll on people. We need time to pause, restore and re-energize — which can be difficult for organizations to comprehend and put into action.”
Why creating boundaries is essential to the quality of life in the hybrid work model
An integral part of work-life balance is creating boundaries. Bonneau shared her thoughts on implementing successful boundaries that make working in a hybrid environment more manageable.
"Boundaries in the workplace have become more important now that we live and work in the same space. Something as simple as closing the door to your at-home office when you're doing work can help create a physical boundary between work and play. However, many people don't have the luxury of a home office, so the space they choose to work from will likely need to be cleared at the end of the day. This can be particularly difficult, but also a blessing for parents who need to stop what they are doing to take care of their children and prepare dinner," she says.
"Anything we can do to create more separation or distinct transitions from work will help support the changes you want to make. It's not always as simple as shutting down your laptop, and it could be getting up to change your clothes, stretching, going for a walk, etc. Rather than keeping it 'seamless,' it's about creating the seams between work and home. These distinctions, and the behaviours associated with them, help us form boundaries."
Expect the unexpected in this introductory stage of the hybrid work model
When it comes to the lesson we've learned over the last two years, Bonneau stated, "Expect the unexpected. Learn to become comfortable with discomfort. If we can learn to find ease, flow and flexibility with change and the unknown, then it can make future impacts of change easier to manage." As the hybrid work model evolves, know that seeking support for your mental health, be it stress, anxiety, or burnout, is an important part of self-care and is always available to you.
Disclaimer: This article contains guidelines or advice not intended to self-diagnose or treat. No content should be used as a substitute for direct advice from a qualified professional such as your doctor or mental health professional. Please reach out for support from a certified professional related to the symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you are in crisis and require immediate support, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Alternately, please contact the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). For residents of Québec, call 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553).