Staying afloat in tides of work imbalance




Many would be under the impression that we have done well transitioning into the new digital transformation. Our responsibilities may have remained the same, but our priorities might have been derailed because of this new change. It is true, some have benefited through the current condition of the workplace. However, a significant number of employees have not been as fortunate. They have been given a completely different set of challenges to deal with.

These dedicated individuals have highlighted concerns that organisations or business leaders should take note of and take proper steps to help their employees from drowning in their mental strain. An unfavourable, high-stress environment can be detrimental to the overall productivity of an organisation.

According to the latest findings in the Microsoft's Work Trend Index report, 41 per cent of the workforce is thinking about swapping careers within the next year. Drawing insights from 30,000 workers worldwide, with signals from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, the past 18 months have been taxing because of the global pandemic. This has affected the way people have had to balance work life, home schooling, caring for family members, or even the feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Working remotely has heightened the use of e-mails, virtual meetings and other forms of messaging or communication. Fifty-four per cent of employees reported a sense of being overworked in this process. Meetings have gone up by 148 per cent, team chats by 45 per cent, working on Office documents have risen by 66 per cent and there have been over 40.6 billion e-mails within a span of a year. These numbers can be overwhelming for employees, but fortunately, manageable for business leaders looking to thrive in the modern workplace.

Managers with empathy and an astute approach have the ability to convert challenges into opportunity. There are sure-fire ways for them to reengage and reinvigorate their team members, ultimately creating a safer and healthier work environment.

For one, they can actively encourage people to take deserved time off. Encouraging people to take advantage of their holiday time will assist them to truly disconnect from work. Although, it is absolutely necessary to lead by example and stay committed to these required breaks. Subsequently, this time away provides a chance to think about leadership style. Senior staff can prioritise how people are truly feeling rather than monitoring how productive they are. Being flexible and attentive can empower employees to approach the workday in a non-linear way, allotting time for them to attend to personal obligations, which allows them to restore balance.

The restoration period is as important as the learning process, as leaders can encourage team members to make most of their development through valuable training. Sharpening their skills will help maintain and protect their mental wellbeing. Again, personal experiences can suggest lessons that have worked and have not worked for building resiliency, giving employees the upper hand when seeking that work life balance. Another advantage is using tools that offer data-led insights to help them switch off and focus on their health and well-being. Utilising this time and certain tools will help team members stay connected from a distance without the overbearing pressure.

More importantly, to unify all of these effective decisions, communication is crucial. It is important that leaders are transparent about adapting to the hybrid workplace. They may not have all the correct answers for an ideal hybrid working environment, but they can listen to the needs of their employees. Open and clear communication leads to better understanding for concerns and wiser decisions being made regarding the well-being of team members.

The writer is business group director at Microsoft Gulf. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the publication's policy.