Is the hybrid work model the new way forward?

Jade McNamee

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone around the world had to alter their daily routines. That ranged from online shopping to online teaching and people were forced to work from home.

While the majority of this has returned to a somewhat normal state, a large majority of people have continued a hybrid working scheme as an aftereffect of lockdowns. There are concerns about the impact this has on mental health, research shows both a positive as well as a negative impact on mental health.

Working from home does have a great advantage in terms of contributing more to family life and can definitely offer a more blurred work-life boundary. Yet, evidence from the HSE identifies that remote work can have negative effects on mental health with employees experiencing increased feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress.

When working from home, it can be difficult to separate your workspace and your personal life. Instead of clocking out of the office and beginning your commute home, you simply turn off your computer and walk a few steps to another area of your house. In turn, this does not allow you to fully switch off your work brain and can lead to never really leaving the office mentally.

Lack of social interaction can also cause problems with communication between fellow staff members and a risk that misunderstandings can occur when work conversations happen over email or via apps like Zoom or WhatsApp. That can lead to interpersonal problems that are time-consuming to resolve.

While data from Microsoft shows that hybrid work enables each employee to fit their work and life together in a way that works for them. Reducing stress and helping prevent burnout. Having the option to work from home partially is favoured by many people allowing the time to engage in social events and important dates in their personal lives they may have been forced to miss pre-pandemic.

After being forced to work from home for the guts of two years a trust has built between employees and their employers on the promise of getting work done and setting their own schedules. Autonomy is key in a hybrid work environment and research shows boosts in autonomy can have a positive impact on mental health which in turn can lead to a more relaxed work environment and a boost in employee satisfaction.

It is clear that research does show valid arguments for both sides. I think it is unfair to favour either side, it all depends on the individual and their needs. Some people thrive in a social environment and others need a more relaxed and controlled space to get the work done.