Over the last eighteen months we have been so impressed with stories shared by our clients about how their leaders and teams have so quickly adapted to new ways of working, and have learnt new technologies to support this. Coping with the challenges of working remotely will have certainly stretched many to their limits, both mentally and emotionally. Now that businesses are transitioning to a blended model of both home and office working, looking after the mental health of employees remains a high priority. 

Despite having some reservations about a partial return to the office, staff are reporting some real benefits to the way they have been working during the pandemic. Many feel they are getting a better work life balance as they no longer have to commute to the office as much, giving them more time for exercise, family and self-care. In fact, some staff at the University of Manchester believed their work was of better quality because ‘they felt empowered, trusted and more focused’

Once your senior leadership team have established the right balance of hybrid working for your business, it is important that team leaders and line managers ensure they continue supporting staff regardless of where they are working. Here we outline some key factors for middle management to
consider: 

1. Identify those who may be struggling   

When part of a team is working remotely it may be difficult to spot the signs of mental ill-health. During virtual interactions be sure to look out for staff lacking motivation, changes in behaviour or withdrawal. Remember that everyone’s capacity to cope with this next phase of working will vary, as will personal circumstances, so try to be patient and offer empathy. Continue to ‘check-in’ with staff on a one-to-one basis so they can share their worries
and concerns with you. 

2. Encourage honest, transparent dialogue and build trust

Staff working remotely may feel disconnected. Be sensitive around the language used when referring to your different hybrid teams, be they working from home or based in the office. Staff will feel less isolated if they feel they are being listened to and understood. Placing trust in staff who are working flexibly to meet work commitments will help individuals feel valued. 

3. Champion inclusion 

The CIPD recently cautioned against ‘presence disparity’ where staff who attend meetings remotely do not have an experience equal to their office based colleagues. They also warn that adopting the hybrid style is not suitable for every type of meeting, stressing the importance of a good facilitator to draw all participants in if a hybrid approach is taken.  

4. Provide opportunities for hybrid team members to mix

It is important that staff continue to feel part of a team. Aim to build in some fun, social events to the work calendar on a regular basis. This can be a great time to celebrate individual and team efforts, which can promote a sense of shared identity. 

5. Be proactive in your communications 

Anxiety can be reduced and wellbeing improved by making sure all staff are kept ‘in the loop’ informing of important updates and good news. Regular communications are key to staff feeling less isolated and foster a sense of belonging. 

6. Lead by example to encourage a healthy work life balance 

Even if staff are working flexibly, which maybe outside of normal office hours, it is crucial for line managers to clearly outline expected hours of work so a work life balance can be achieved by all. Commit to not sending your own emails outside of core working hours and notice if staff are handling email traffic at unsociable times. This pattern of working will be new to you too so you may not have all the answers straight away. Admitting as such to your staff will make you more human in their eyes and will help build relationships. 

The transition to hybrid working will be a smoother one for staff if your line managers are able to put some of these suggestions into practice. Organisations can further support all levels of employees by hosting wellness workshops, which equip staff with good coping strategies and help build resilience. 

This historic transformation of working practices provides a unique opportunity to bring the wellbeing of staff to the forefront of human
resource planning in business.