We know that hybrid working is set to continue for the long term for many companies. Much work has been done on how to create strategies that make the experience of working “place-unconstrained (working anywhere)”1 work well for all employees. But what about the impact of this work being done in the very place you want to forget about it? How do we help staff effectively switch off from work when the ‘work’ is right there on the chair?
The missing piece in the juggle puzzle
Most of the hybrid working debate is focused on the activity of work and how that is being done in the new mix of office and home as a location, with ‘work’ now as a verb.
But what about the impact of working from home on people’s home life? At unprecedented levels, work as an activity has pervaded the home, designed to be people’s havens. For people’s mental health and overall wellbeing, the ability to switch off from work at the end of the day and truly unwind is critical. We cannot ignore the elephant in the room that is the work laptop, ping of the email or files piled up on the dining room table or next to the bed.
The impact of working from home on home life
Imagine the work laptop pinging at 6.30pm just after you’ve sat down to relax at the end of the day, or a document on display that you realise you need to review – or just the pile it creates within view. Those items left on display impact in their capacity as general mess and in what they represent.
82% of people have experienced ‘mess stress’ at some point2 and in many cases they hardly even realise they have it until the source is removed. When people remove the ‘daily debris’ from their surfaces, they can feel instant relief.
I can’t tell you how much better I felt getting up this morning and seeing it all tidy! – Work from home client, Serenely Sorted
What the work paraphernalia out on a surface represents goes even further, causing minds to get pulled back to work, rendering people unable to switch off.
Without measures in place within hybrid working strategies to ensure that ‘work’ as an activity does not impact your ability to switch off from it at the end of the day, it can cause completely unnecessary added stress.
The work-from-home experience is not the same for all
Not only can work pervade our free time at home if not handled right, the opposite is also true. The mental load of the homelife will likely impact the ability to focus on work while at home. And while more senior staff may have a larger home with a dedicated office, for other, typically younger, employees: the desk in the corner of the bedroom or a shared living space may be where they work.
Only 40% of those working from home having a dedicated desk or office, with the rest making do with a shared space such as the kitchen or dining table (29%) or the bedroom (31%)2.
Whilst one may simply say that those without a dedicated workspace can go into the office, they then miss out on the benefits of reduced commuter time, and so is part of the complex mix of the hybrid recipe. Simple but effective strategies can help people create temporary areas of focus during work time that can be put away, and help people manage/reduce the ‘call’ of the mental load of home.
At the end of the day
…we all need to be able to switch off effectively from work in our homes. If we want to ensure equal access to the personal benefits of working from home and minimise the impact on homelife in the hybrid working model, hybrid strategies cannot ignore this key element.
Here are three steps to begin addressing this elephant in the living room:
- Check in on staff to find out where they work when at home and how they feel about that. Remember that even if they don’t say it impacts their ability to switch off, it may still do so.
- Empower them with some initial, simple strategies for reducing impact: like you would provide a locker at work for your hot desking staff, provide a box or bag and recommend a similar ‘clear work zone policy’.
- Schedule a webinar on the topic, make it known that you are grateful for space in people’s havens for the activity of work, and respect that this space needs to be sorted and serene in order for them to switch off.
1 How to do hybrid right by Lynda Gratton, Harvard Business Review (June, 2021)
2 Nationally representative survey, 250 UK respondents conducted for Serenely Sorted by Kantar (March 2021)
Diana Spellman is the Founder of Serenely Sorted. With 20 years corporate experience in systems/process improvement, she used those skills to address the ‘Mess Stress’ in her own life after working from home meant she couldn’t get away from the piles that had built up over time – and created the unique Serenely Sorted System, helping individuals and business create home environments that work well, with less effort, less mess stress and time saved every week on the drudgery. Diana delivers webinars to slot into staff wellness programmes, short ‘lunch & learn’ headliners and 1-2-1 programmes for senior staff. Find out more here or book a discovery call.