In person work can make the signs of burnout easier to spot

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A snuffed out candle to illustrate the issue of burnoutA new poll from Barco claims that a third of people who mostly work in the office found it easier to tell when a colleague is overworked or stressed when seeing them face to face, leaving some remote workers at risk of struggling under the radar of management teams. This comes as over a quarter of staff report experiencing burnout over chronic work-related stress that has not been managed successfully. 

Overall, 7 in 10 (72 percent) workers reported holding some negative views towards hybrid working, with over a quarter (28 percent) pointing to tech overload – when excessive use of devices reduces their capacity to accomplish their work, as a major cause for concern. The same number also reported an inability to “switch off” from their devices in their own personal time, due to work commitments. A further quarter (25 percent) of workers report feeling stressed out by all the meeting technology they are expected to use and just under 1 in 5 (19 percent) state that hybrid working has had a negative influence on their collaboration with colleagues, with over a third (35 percent) of remote staff stating they miss in-person interactions with co-workers.

The Barco Meeting Barometer is an annual index charting worker’s satisfaction with their hybrid meeting environments. Looking at a sample of 5,000 workers spread across Europe and the U.S, the latest index found that worker satisfaction came to -25 percent. While a recorded rise in satisfaction of 13 percent can be garnered when compared to a November 2021 study by Barco, the overall sentiment towards hybrid meeting experience would benefit from significant improvement.

Following almost 3 years of familiarity with remote and hybrid work, the survey claims that 65 percent of workers are either back in the office full time or spend more time in the office than remote – but almost a third (31 percent) wish they could work from home more often. It also suggests that ‘quiet quitting’ has begun to take hold, as almost a quarter (23 percent) of workers explicitly reporting disengagement from work due to poor management and tech overload (14 percent).

Recent research suggests that quiet quitting is a growing phenomenon in the hybrid workplace and one which employers will have to keep a firm grip on in order to manage staff wellbeing and productivity levels. According to a June 2022 study by global analytics firm Gallup, 50 percent of the U.S workforce is made up of ‘quiet quitters’, while only 14 percent of European employees are engaged at work.


A double edged sword

Barco’s findings suggest that there could be a cohort of people whose stress levels and workload pressures are going unnoticed by their colleagues and managers – which could create a ticking mental health time bomb of burnout.

“While it is clear that the hybrid model is here to stay and enjoys great popularity with workers due to the flexibility it can offer, businesses must be careful to ensure that it does not become a double-edged sword,” said Yannic Laleeuwe, Segment marketing director for the workplace at Barco. “As hybrid has become a professional mainstay, remote colleagues may feel less able to communicate the pressures they are facing, masking work-related stress and overwhelm that may build into a larger disengagement issue if left unaddressed.”

Laleeuwe continued: “With many employees reporting disengagement from their work, or “quiet quitting” due to poor management and overwhelm caused by the various tech tools they’re being told to use, it is clear that the learnings from the last three years of hybrid work need a more concerted effort to be implemented correctly, to the benefit of all. If businesses expect to get the best out of their teams, they must provide them with the tools they need to feel supported and heard, wherever they are remote or in-office.”

Dr Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience proposes: “Work is good for mental health, providing many of us an opportunity to escape some of the pressures of our daily lives, and to be recognised for our skills. But even for organisations who have focused on improving wellbeing, the hybrid model can become an obstacle. Without day-to-day contact, it is difficult to notice changes in someone’s behaviour if they feel muted and starting conversations about wellbeing on online work platforms can be challenging.”

“However, if new tools and practices can be brought in to make wellbeing an active part of someone’s daily agenda, then the hybrid world can make taking specific action more impactful,” posits Dr Tang. “Leaders must remain mindful that a transition to the ‘new normal’ is not a return to the ‘old’ way of working. It is time for them to actively listen to their workforce, to take the time to spot the social, biological, practical and verbal indicators of workplace stress and create an atmosphere of compassion.”