When Klara was offered a hybrid working arrangement, she thought it would be the best of both worlds. The account manager had initially joined her London-based firm on a full-time office contract, only for successive waves of Covid-19 to force her to work from home.
Klara’s boss introduced the hybrid policy in September 2021, when UK government guidance recommending home working came to an end: Tuesdays and Thursdays would be home-working days, with the remainder of the week spent in the office during normal contracted hours.
“Having a permanent hybrid set-up initially came as a relief,” says Klara, whose surname is being withheld for job-security concerns. “After years of full-time office work, it felt like I finally had control over my work schedule and busy home life.”
As the months rolled by, however, the novelty of hybrid work soon gave way to hassle and a jarring one-day-in, one-day-out routine. “I feel settled and focused on the days that I work from home,” says Klara. “But by the evening I dread having to go back in: sitting at my desk for eight hours a day in a noisy office, staring at a screen, readjusting to exactly how it was before Covid.”
Klara feels she now has two workplaces to maintain – one in the office and one at home. “It involves planning and a stop-start routine: taking my laptop to and from the office every day, and remembering what important things I’ve left where,” she adds. “It’s the psychological shift – the change of setting every day – that’s so tiring; this constant feeling of never being settled, stressed and my productive home working always being disrupted.”
Emerging data is beginning to back up such anecdotal evidence: many workers report that hybrid is emotionally draining. In a recent global study by employee engagement platform Tinypulse, more than 80% of people leaders reported that such a set-up was exhausting for employees. Workers, too, reported hybrid was more emotionally taxing than fully remote arrangements – and, concerningly, even full-time office-based work.
Given many businesses plan on implementing permanent hybrid working models, and that employees by and large want their working weeks spent between home and the office, such figures sound alarm bells. But what is it specifically about hybrid working that is so emotionally exhausting? And how can workers and companies avoid pitfalls so that hybrid actually works?