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Work-From-Home Burnout: The Impact of Work Environments on the Human Mind

Working from home quickly became the standard across industries as the world battled the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as the pandemic slows, many businesses are examining the impacts of work-from-home environments on the mental and emotional well-being of their teams.

Many companies are working to establish a hybrid work environment that includes both in-office and remote working. By doing so, they can better acknowledge and accommodate the different needs of individual team members.

Recognizing the uniqueness of each person within a business is crucial. The impact of a work environment on a person’s psyche will differ according to their personality and preferences. This article will examine these differences and offer practical applications for providing the best possible support to your business team. 

Examining How Work Environments Affect a Person’s Well-Being

Before an institution can establish an effective hybrid work environment, an in-depth look at the current company culture must first be carried out. Business leaders must understand the role company boundaries, requirements, and support play in a person’s health.

In November of 2020, BMC Public Health released a review of research on the topic of how working from home (WFH) affects mental and physical health. This review found that the impact of WFH on a team member’s health depended greatly on the level of organisational support within an institution.

The review further states:

It is likely mandated [WFH] will continue to some degree for the foreseeable future; organisations will need to implement formalised [WFH] policies that consider work-home boundary management support, role clarity, workload, performance indicators, technical support, facilitation of co-worker networking, and training for managers.”

The overarching message from this research is clear: the well-being of an institution’s team starts with the support and resources provided by business leaders.

Misconceptions About WFH’s Effect on Productivity Levels

A common misconception surrounding WFH is that the method will decrease the productivity levels of team members. This misconception is born out of the idea that allowing team members to work from the comfort of their homes will result in less time spent focused on work activities.

Aside from lacking statistical evidence, this belief also incorrectly assumes workers have less professional accountability when working from home. In fact, recent research and surveys have uncovered the truth to be exactly the opposite.

In September of 2020, the TalkTalk Group released a report on how working from home has impacted productivity levels of workers in the UK. Findings from this report include:

  • 58 percent of workers reported higher productivity levels while working from home
  • 52 percent of workers stated they never expect to return to a 5-day in-office work environment
  • 81 percent of business leaders identified a safe, fast, and reliable broadband connection as the most important factor for enabling WFH

Even before the pandemic, research suggested that the WFH method could boost productivity. A 2015 Stanford study of 16,000 workers found a 13 percent increase in WFH employee performance – a figure the study notes to be “highly significant.”

Accommodating Different Personalities in the Workplace

Though there is statistical evidence and research to prove WFH to be optimal for some, the truth of the matter is that it comes down to individual personalities.

Human contact and collaboration are important within any business environment. Connecting in-person can enable heightened creativity, especially for team members who are highly social and extroverted by nature. However, more introverted and independent team members are more likely to prefer the social freedom of working from home.

The problem with accommodating and managing different personalities through the WFH method comes from inadequate boundary setting and unrealistic expectations.

According to a workplace burnout survey by Deloitte, roughly 70 percent of professionals reported feeling like their employers did not provide enough support to “prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization.”

Without the proper flexibility and support from leadership, team members can quickly become overwhelmed while working from home. This is especially true for those who may not prefer WFH over in-person business.

To accommodate differing personalities in the workplace, there are 3 key factors to consider:

  • Utilizing Flex Scheduling: Flex scheduling is a method that allows workers to determine their own hours according to their needs and preferences. While they are still required to work at least 40 hours per week, this enables individuals to find the routine that works best for them.
  • Acknowledging Cultural Differences: Cultural differences can have a major impact on a worker’s perspective of WFH vs. in-person work environments. For business leaders in global industries, this means taking the time to examine the needs of team members according to not just personality, but culture and location as well.
  • Encouraging Open Expression of Needs: The key to satisfying different personalities is to foster a relationship with employees that enables open and honest communication. By encouraging workers to openly express their needs, businesses can achieve custom solutions that fit the preferences of their teams.

Humanizing Management Structures

Leadership and management play critical roles when it comes to the satisfaction and well-being of employees. Despite this, there tends to be a disconnect between employees and business leaders.

The idea of “humanized management” arose from the need to correct this disconnection. Humanized management structures, as a result, focus more on individuals rather than broad worker statistics and stereotypes. The key to achieving this type of management lies in how the managers themselves are trained and vetted.

According to the Harvard Business Review:

One reason for the scarcity of managerial greatness is that in educating and training managers, we focus too much on technical proficiency and too little on character.

Truth be told, there is no hard and fast rule that defines the ideal way to manage workers. Managers need to take the time to get to know their people on an individual level. When it comes to working from home, this translates into providing as many options as possible.

Here are 3 key ways businesses can begin humanizing their management structures to better support WFH and in-person preferences:

  • Offering Optional Office Hours: Offering open-ended office hours for personnel to meet and collaborate during is crucial. By making in-person connection optional, rather than mandatory, management allows workers to choose the method that works best for them.
  • Building a Strong Sense of Community: Teams that feel a sense of community amongst themselves will perform much better than those that feel highly competitive or isolated. Managers must assume the responsibility of providing the outlets and opportunities for team members to connect in order to build such communities.
  • Trusting Professionals to be Accountable: Trust between employees, management, and other business leaders is the cornerstone to a successful business. As such, offering such trust to team members to be accountable for how they spend and allocate their time is important.

Final Thoughts

The pandemic brought with it many essential lessons on how professionals thrive – or suffer – depending on their work environment.

A key insight that we have gained is that productivity is not diminished by working from home – in fact, it often benefits from the WFH method. However, the emotional strain on employees can drastically increase as well without the proper support from their management and leadership.

It is of the utmost importance for companies to develop a sense of community across all levels. Through this community building, people are enabled to feel more confident about their work thanks to personalized support.

As business leaders, we must embrace this learning opportunity to better understand our people and help them to feel they have the support and human connection they need.


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