Ask the Expert – Resilience Tips for Hybrid Work
The relevance/value of our Developing Personal Resilience course for hybrid workers
Dot: I think people tend to either feel completely isolated or they just find it really difficult to separate from the anxieties of raising a family as well as the anxieties of work. So, one of the key things that I have certainly heard fed back to me is that “I feel I have not got the right kind of support anymore“.
So, is that the hybrid environment? I’m not sure; I think that’s more the online working that we do because of the hybrid environment, and people feel that everyone is like them, and they are so busy being busy that they maybe shouldn’t interrupt them. They feel they don’t want to call them online or using our old-fashioned means of a phone because it’s going to be impacting on their day.
So that’s one of the key things individuals will say, “I feel unsupported”, “I feel isolated”. And you know, we used to have coffee mornings together, we used to go for walks together, and my argument is, you know, we probably still have time to do that, but for whatever reason, we have told ourselves that we don’t.
So let’s use the course, is one of my key messages, as a catalyst to get involved with other people again. Pick up the phone, have informal meetings and coffee chats rather than these back-to-back work-based meetings.
Jan: Yes, because it’s like people have sort of lost the confidence to interrupt someone else’s day, isn’t it? Because they feel like they are, everybody is, so focused on their to-do list, and the social element has kind of gone.
Dot: Absolutely, and if you are in the workplace, you know, we either, some of us drive, some of us walk, some of us cycle, and we maybe go out for a social walk at lunchtime if we are not too busy. But when we are working from home, particularly if we have got small children or pets, you know, we don’t allow the breaks to become ours.
We don’t allow ourselves to choose what would work for us during our breaks. And again, during Resilience, I try and tap into all the relevant research to encourage people to take breaks so that they not only feel better, but their cognition is increased so that they can enable work much more effectively, don’t really like using that word, but they work much more effectively.
But what they are doing is they are filling the dishwasher, hanging the washing out. They are doing the things they need to do to keep the family running, for example, rather than choosing to do something for themselves. And again, that’s one of the key elements in Resilience, where if we don’t look after ourselves, if we don’t do what we enjoy doing, then it’s very difficult sometimes to remain positive and to seek support and to support others.
So, there is a number of different elements that all fit into each other, which are not rocket science but can absolutely support us from a hybrid working perspective.
Managing the boundary between work and home life when hybrid working
Dot: [Of lockdown, for example], we were all quite happy potentially to work from home because we had more time with the family – in fact, it has increased our valuing of others and our closer relationships, I think that’s a very positive thing of what’s come from hybrid working.
However, you know, we would get up in our pyjamas sometimes, have our breakfast during a meeting. We would maybe choose to take some time out in the middle of the day but then work later at night. And that almost becomes a habit. And again, what I’ve heard as feedback from individuals on the course is that we are spending more time actually at the work interface than we are now with our families because it’s become a habit.
As soon as you get up, you check your email; you maybe have an early meeting. We are not always in control of our calendar, so meetings are placed in throughout the day. We are not able to read our own emails and catch up with those communications, so we do that at the end of the day because it’s so accessible, and that’s where we get this idea that we are all so, so busy. But again, the research would state that if you take breaks and look after yourself, do something that helps you feel positive, and that’s the main element of Resilience….is in promoting positivity.
Seek support, again, as I mentioned earlier, to say, you know, ‘I can’t do this’. And actually, if we are open with what we can and can’t manage on a day-to-day basis, then that will almost be a catalyst for the team to start to get together and discuss in more detail how they can support each other, how they can manage their days better. And, you know, again I’m probably repeating myself, but if we take our breaks then it’s a complete fallacy that we don’t have time to complete a piece of work. In fact, our cognition increases to such a degree we can manage the work much better and much more easily.
So, we need to start getting better at not necessarily saying, “No, I can’t do that” directly to people, but to say to ourselves, you know, I don’t feel I can do that, so let’s seek support and speak to others and start putting priorities into place as well. But boundaries is also saying yes to things that you know you need but haven’t done for a while, and that is seeking support, asking people for advice, phoning up a colleague or a friend and going out for a walk to put the world right at lunchtime, if that’s appropriate and you live close to each other.
So, boundaries is not about shutting things out, that’s a barrier. Boundaries is knowing what works well for you and trying to communicate with others how we can make that happen, how we look after each other.
Some thoughts and tips on remote working and feelings of isolation and anxiety
Dot: So, we have individuals who absolutely prefer to work from home, others who miss the workplace dreadfully. And there is another element that comes into this potentially as well because this has come into play because of Covid, and you know, anxiety of becoming severely unwell.
So, we’ve got individuals at home, unsupported, might be working every hour so there is fatigue there as well, or cognition dips. But anxiety tends to creep up on these individuals sometimes and we are not aware of it at first, but it just slowly creeps in. So, it almost increases this isolation where, you know, we don’t … it’s not that we don’t want to speak to people, it’s just we don’t really feel like we want to go out. We tend to avoid shopping, its so easy to get your shopping delivered.
So, the key element within Resilience is thinking about pro-activity. Not waiting for disasters to happen, but thinking; right, where am I now, how can I look after myself better, how can I support myself to look for positive things and to seek support from other individuals? So that when things do go wrong, as they quite often do … you know, sounds very text booky to say we will bounce back much quicker and stronger … but it’s absolutely true. It gives you the ability to maintain positivity, health, productivity, enjoyment when things are perhaps falling down around about you.
The longer we allow anxiety to take hold, it impacts hugely on your thinking processes, and I have had individuals on the courses who are saying, “this is all very well this resilience, but I’m not able to do that”. This is where if we can encourage people to get involved in self-care as soon as possible, proactively before the problems, then we reap the best benefits.
It’s not only looking after yourself, support is the key buffer against negative impacts of pressure. So, you know, if we are in a team, if we are in a tight knit family, we need that support. So, if we are isolated and working from home then team almost become your family. So, as a team, we need to support each other better and that’s where it’s fantastic if we can run resilience training WITH teams so they can start to think about how to support each other in the long term.