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As hybrid work becomes a permanent fixture within the modern workforce and employees continue to take advantage of flexible working policies, hidden mental issues could be on the horizon. Workers are inclined to disengage from work because of poor management and excessive device usage. New Barco research dives into the how and why of the challenges of quiet quitting and burnouts accross the hybrid environment.
The recent Barco research points out that:
1 in 3 workers (33%) who mostly work in the office find it easier to tell when a colleague is overworked or stressed when seeing them face to face, leaving remote workers at risk of struggling under the radar of management teams. What are actually the causes of these hidden frustrations?
The Barco Meeting Barometer, an annual index measuring worker’s satisfaction with their hybrid meeting environment, sees a rise of worker satisfaction from -38 to –25 in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and United States. While the number goes up with 13 since the last index of November 2021, 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 found that 65% of workers are either back in the office full time or spend more time in the office than remote – but almost a third (31%) wish they could work from home more often. That said, quiet quitting has begun to take hold, as almost a quarter (23%) of workers explicitly reporting disengagement from work due to poor management and tech overload (14%).
“While it is clear that the hybrid model enjoys great popularity with workers due to the flexibility it offers, businesses must be careful that it does not become a double-edged sword,” said Yannic Laleeuwe, Segment Marketing Director Workplace at Barco. “Remote colleagues may feel less able to communicate the pressures they are facing, masking work-related stress that may build into a larger disengagement issue if left unaddressed.”
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 the pressures of our daily lives, and to be recognized for our skills. But even for organizations 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 behavior if they feel muted. Starting conversations about wellbeing on online work platforms can be challenging.”
Quiet quitting refers to an employee that is just doing the bare minimum in his job and putting in no more time, effort or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. Quiet quitting doesn't mean an employee has left their job but avoids working longer hours and sets clear boundaries to improve work-life balance. It 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.
“Quiet quitters continue to fulfill their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviors: no more staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings,” stated by professors Anthony C. Klotz and Mark C. Bolino in the September 2022 Harvard Business Review.
The term ‘quiet quitting’ may sound relatively new, the practise however isn’t. Employees have been quietly quitting because of poor management, workload, pay, burnout or lack of growing opportunities in the past too. However, since the Great Resignation and the shift to hybrid work, the phenomenon has been extrapolated and workers globally have started to question their work-life balance, salaries and company values more than ever before. They even start to express their doubts on social media, like in this TikTok movie. In turn, employers have a hard time reaching employees in formal online and hybrid meetings since these have replaced also the more informal chats at the coffee corner.
According to a June 2022 study by global analytics firm Gallup, 50% of the U.S workforce is made up of ‘quiet quitters’, while only 14% of European employees are engaged at work. The Barco research suggests that there could be a group 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.
Employee experience is key for organizations fighting disengagement. Keeping communication lines open, asking for feedback and giving regular appreciation are focus points for mangers. Next to that employers can gain real benefit from enabling great collaboration experiences and investing in the right technology to improve inclusion and equity in the hybrid workplace. With the right tools, policies and practices in place, work-life boundaries can be respected, collaboration can be seamless and workers can feel truly engaged and included.
“As many employees report disengagement due to the 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. 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,” says Yannic Laleeuwe, Segment Marketing Director Workplace at Barco.
“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.”
The survey commissioned by Barco was conducted by 3Gem between the dates of November 4 and November 14, 2022. The survey was completed by 5,000 office workers across France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States (1,000 of each per in France, Germany and the UK, and 2,000 in the U.S.).