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Calls, Meetings & ‘Always-On’ – Are These The Saboteurs of Modern Work?

Posted on: 17th August 2022

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Calls, Meetings & ‘Always-On’ – Are These The Saboteurs of Modern Work?Calls, Meetings & ‘Always-On’ – Are These The Saboteurs of Modern Work?

As hybrid working becomes a part of our ‘new normal’, we look at how managers can ensure that perpetual connectivity doesn’t lead to employee burnout.

More and more businesses are adapting their operations to incorporate hybrid working. In fact, research by Microsoft indicates that 53% of employees are likely transitioning to hybrid working in the coming year.

The work-from-home element of the hybrid model has many well-known benefits, such as reducing the amount of time employees spend commuting and enabling them to spend more time with their families. It can also provide them with more opportunities to customise their working environment, and manage the day-to-day of maintaining their homes alongside their work.

But when the living space and the workspace converge, a big challenge can be compartmentalising personal and professional lives – especially in the age of ‘always on’ work, when emails and tasks can be dealt with at any time of the day.

We take a look at how a well conceived hybrid strategy can remedy unhealthy work habits and help both businesses and workers get the most from varied ways of working. 

The importance of boundaries in the hybrid model

When done correctly, hybrid working empowers employees to improve their work-life balance, helping them feel happier, more fulfilled, and more in control. Research suggests this need for calm and stability is more pressing than ever among employees. 

A study of more than 4,000 workers published by Business in the Community (BITC) demonstrated that while 45% of employees felt that they could ‘switch off’ after work,  the remaining 55% found that they felt pressured to respond to calls or check emails outside of working hours. The same survey revealed that 41% of employees admitted that they struggled to find time to take off for annual leave or had to work overtime in order to complete their workloads.

The beauty of the hybrid model is that it encourages employees to draw lines of demarcation between work time and home time. The support of managers is also of paramount importance here, as they can provide guidance and lead by example when it comes to making the most of hybrid routines as a way of reducing fatigue and burnout.

Creating the change

As the intermediary between executives and employees, managers are integral in keeping organisations connected as their physical locations diverge. In this context, there are many ways in which managers can provide employees with the support they need as a business adjusts to going hybrid.

1. Rethink your approach to meetings

It’s an old cliche that today’s workers attend too many meetings. But believe it or not, we’re having more meetings than ever, whether we’re sharing a physical space or not. In fact, it seems that remote workers actually spend more time in meetings than the office-bound. Microsoft’s research shows that the average Teams user’s meeting time has increased by 252% since February 2020, and the number of weekly meetings has increased by 153%. The average Teams user also sent 32% more chats per week in February 2022 compared to March 2020. A figure that continues to climb.

Evidence shows that excessive meetings can make employees less productive. A survey of 10,624 knowledge workers by the productivity management software specialists Asana revealed that employees spend an average of 58% of their day coordinating their work rather than actually doing it.

With a huge array of video conferencing platforms available to us, remote meetings are quicker and easier to arrange than ever. But this availability can make meetings more plentiful and less purposeful. Using dedicated meeting spaces may help to redress this balance, so organisations can have fewer but more purposeful meetings.

2. Ensure that employees can switch off after work

Your workplace culture should encourage employees to value their free time, and recognise the importance of switching off after work. Managers are ideally placed to recognise signs of ‘workaholism’ in team members and ensure that their relationships with their jobs are healthy. Arranging social activities for the end of the working day and issuing reminders to “clock off” at the end of their assigned hours can be highly effective in helping employees pursue a healthy work-life balance.

3. Keep workloads and targets realistic

Some may argue that it’s important to ensure that employees are challenged when working remotely. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep employees’ workloads and targets realistic and achievable in order to prevent the buildup of unmanaged stress.

4. Check-in regularly

Check-ins are a great way to provide employees with a sense of connectivity to their work and their employers. Hybrid working provides a range of ways in which managers can do this. They can be carried out virtually when necessary, or if you prefer the personal touch, at a flexspace or at the company HQ.

5. Model healthy working behaviours

Managers must walk the walk when it comes to avoiding counterproductive ‘always-on’ cultures. As well as encouraging teams to get together for social time, managers can model healthy working by not making calls or sending emails outside of work hours or on annual leave days, and not working when ill. Managers set the precedent for their teams, whether they realise it or not.

Drawing the line

If remote working can blur the lines between work and home life, organisations and managers can use hybrid to help re-establish those lines.

A clearly defined hybrid strategy can help employees to plan and utilise their time more effectively at home, while local flexspaces can provide an environment where meetings and collaboration are made easier and more enjoyable.

With first-class meeting and coworking facilities in locations all over the world, Regus empowers teams to get the most from their hybrid working models. Equipped with business-grade tech, they are a flexible, affordable and enjoyable alternative to conventional office rental.

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