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Hybrid is Healthy: The Health Benefits of Hybrid Working

hyrbid work employees, hybrid workplace
Brian Muse
Published on

Over the pandemic we all learned to love different aspects of working-from-home. I can work out mid-day. I can spend more time with my family. I can avoid commuting. It allows me to balance work and life on my own terms.

For many, all of this is true. Working from home full time can lead to a lifestyle of extreme flexibility and many benefits. But often overlooked among these perks are the downsides when full time working-from-home is applied to the broad population, particularly on mental and physical health.

This is where hybrid work delivers the best of all worlds. We can enjoy flexibility and productivity working from home every week while balancing in-person time that gets us out of the house and in a more social and collaborative setting with our co-workers. 

The Wellness Challenges of Remote Work 

1. The 16-Step Commute

As the world worked from home for all of 2020 and most of 2021, it was easy to imagine a healthier lifestyle. We could fit workouts into the day, walk the dog, go on runs. 

The measured reality painted a different image, as the vast majority of people become significantly less mobile throughout the day. According to Forbes, over 60% of people admitted to cutting their mobility by over 50% as a result of working from home.

We were walking from our bed to our desk and from our desk to the fridge, accumulating a mere 2000 steps a day, just 25% of the recommended amount. The average commute was just 16 steps.

But lack of steps is just one side of the coin. 

We sat in our chairs, and stared at our screens. According to data from Upright:

50% of people reported an increase in lower back pain, 48% in shoulder pain and 52% in eye strain over the course of the pandemic when working entirely from home.

2. Minimal Social Interaction

Beyond strains on physical health, one of the biggest challenges that comes with working remotely is the lack of social interaction, often impacting our mental health. Without regular in-person contact with colleagues, remote workers can often feel isolated and lonely.

As Zoom burnout grew through 2021, remote workers found themselves the most isolated. About 66% said that they often feel isolated and lonely and 17% said they feel this way all the time, according to research by Pew Research Center.

In fact, a 2022 study by Integrated Benefits Institute found that 64% of organizations reported that remote work has had a negative impact on their employees’ mental health, up from 55% last year.

Similar studies have shown a correlation with increased

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Pain
  • Stress

3. Blurred Work-Life Balance Boundaries

Another challenge of remote work is inadvertently blurring boundaries between personal and professional life. Since many remote workers do not have separate workspaces, they may find it difficult to unplug when they finish their day’s tasks. 

According to Forbes, remote workers are doing almost double the overtime of their in-office counterparts while being paid less. 

This can lead to overworking, burnout, and stress as people struggle to turn off their workday mentality when they go home at night. Additionally, since workers don’t have a physical separation between themselves and their workspace, it might be more difficult for them to leave work issues at work instead of bringing them home with them.

How organizations can help fully-remote employees

Overall, there are numerous challenges that come with working remotely but luckily many organizations are striving to offer helpful resources that can help alleviate some of these issues such as:

  • Providing mental health benefits like counseling services
  • Offering flexible schedules; creating virtual social spaces where people can mingle with one another
  • Setting up virtual mentorship programs
  • Designing policies encouraging disconnecting after a certain hour each evening
  • Introducing technology that enables team collaboration on projects
  • Providing training on how to best utilize technology while working remotely
  • Making sure employees know whom they should reach out in case they encounter any problem during their remote work days

Benefits of Working in the Office Space

What is hybrid work? It isn’t about a 5-day-a-week commute. Most employees say they prefer 2 to 3 days in the office, largely to see co-workers and collaborate on work in-person. 

It’s also healthier.

Perhaps the thing we all complain about the most is the commute, and it’s not as if sitting in a car is inherently healthy. That being said, we take a lot of incidental steps throughout the day when we’re not at home. 

  • The car or train to the office
  • Walking to get coffee
  • Grabbing lunch
  • Moving between meeting rooms and workspaces
  • Laps around the office as we chat with colleagues

All of these activities and more result in passive steps that we’re just not getting at home as we cruise from meeting to meeting via zoom links while staying stationary.  Here are just a few more benefits we see from working in an office space.

Work-Life Balance: Working in an office setting allows employees to better separate their work life from their personal life, which can lead to improved work-life balance.

Sense of Community: Working in an office environment can provide social interaction with coworkers, which can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Being part of an office community can provide employees with a sense of belonging and identity, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

Structured Work Environment: An office environment provides a structured work schedule and professional atmosphere that can help employees stay focused and motivated. Not everyone’s home environment is conducive to this and everyone’s situation is different (young children, pets, roommates, etc). 

Professional Development: According to Bloomberg, workers in the office are spending significantly more time on professional development and learning activities.

In-office workers spent 40 more minutes per week mentoring others and 25% more time in their own career developing activities.

The Magic of the Hybrid Work Model 

The hybrid model can give us the best of both worlds. It allows us to flexibly balance time at home with a healthy amount of in-person time. This lets us feel present, included, and a part of the culture of the workplace. It gives a sense of purpose and belonging among our larger teams. 

At Robin, we’ve had incredible success bringing people back together in the office without a mandate. It’s not the love of the commute or the desire for more steps that is the motivating force. It’s social and collaborative activities that lets us grow closer to the people we spend 8+ hours a day working with. 

These activities help rebuild the sense of community and vibrancy we lost over the past few years. For the majority of the population, hybrid work also passively facilitates a healthier lifestyle, both physically and mentally.

Improved Work-Life Balance 

Hybrid work models give employees the flexibility to work remotely or in the office, so they can balance work with personal life commitments. This means they can save commuting time and use it for other activities. Companies with a hybrid work model record increased engagement and higher employee retention rates.

According to ADP Research Institute's People at Work Study:

Two-thirds of the workforce (64 percent) said they would consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time.

Increased Innovation and Productivity

Brainstorm together in-person → execute individually at home

A hybrid work culture allows employees to choose their work location, which has a significant impact on their productivity levels. While in-person collaboration leads to better innovation and brainstorming, working from home enables employees to work from the comfort of their space, reducing distractions from colleagues in the office. An internal survey by Dell Technologies reveals that more than half of their employees prefer a hybrid work model as it helps them work at their best.

Mental and Physical Health

As noted earlier, hybrid work is shown to increase mobility versus working full time from home. It also leads to reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness. Employees are healthier, happier, and more engaged. And they still enjoy the benefits and flexibility they grew to love with working from home every week.

Pro-Hybrid is Not Anti-Remote

Oftentimes the 2-3 day hybrid schedule is pitted against remote work as a competitive model.

It’s important to acknowledge that a fully remote schedule can work for many individuals. But it’s equally important to acknowledge that for a significant portion of the population, there are real downsides with real consequences.

It’s better to think of hybrid work as a better evolved model vs. fully remote work. It acknowledges that WFH has major benefits that should be codified into the long term future-of-work.

But at the same time, hybrid work allows us to strike a perfect balance. To maintain enough of the flexibility that we’ve grown to love, while getting enough in-person time to offset some of the mental and physical side effects.

Hybrid is healthy.

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