Positive Psychology and Hybrid Working

Positive Psychology and Hybrid Working

The Covid 19 pandemic has profoundly impacted every aspect of our lives including the way we work. Over the last two years we’ve journeyed through successive waves of the pandemic alongside new waves of working practice. Pre-pandemic the first wave was ‘working on-site’ in offices and other workplaces. To get philosophical, this ‘thesis’ is the original proposition, then along comes the ‘antithesis’ its opposite, which was the second wave of working from home. This was the lockdown which turned kitchen tables into desks, bedrooms into zoom rooms and the space under the stairs into makeshift offices. And now we’re heading into a third wave, the ‘synthesis’ where the first and second waves combine and integrate to form a new normal.

Hybrid working is the third wave and typically refers to a mixture of workplace/office-based working and remote working, either from home or another office hub. The hybrid working model is a location-flexible arrangement, allowing employees to combine onsite and offsite work as they and their employers see fit.

A Time of Transition

Potentially this has many benefits to offer to workplace wellbeing. Except we’re not there yet. Life is messy. Work continues to be uncertain. Things are as rocky as they are in any time of transition. The challenge now is for companies to figure out how to create the conditions for people to flourish in the third wave of hybrid working. The higher your wellbeing at work the more likely you are to be successful in what you do. This is the Happiness Advantage, which has a double advantage in looking after workers as well as giving organisations a competitive edge. So how can we create optimal work conditions to optimise workplace wellbeing? One model of wellbeing to consider is Self-Determination Theory (SDT), developed by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci.  SDT states that we have three fundamental needs for our wellbeing.

  • Autonomy: To be the agent of our own life
  • Competence: To have a sense of mastery
  • Relatedness: To have a sense of belonging and connection

So how might this relate to hybrid working?

Autonomy: Giving people choice over how they work will help people to have the agency over their worktime and decide which tasks are best accomplished in the office, where you have all the resources you need and which at home, allowing you the headspace for deep focus. There are a variety of models of ‘hybrid-working’ to choose from. The ‘at-will’ model gives employees the flexibility to choose the arrangement that works best for them on any given day. One of the most popular models is the ‘split week’ pattern, which divides the week between working from home 2 to 3 days and working onsite 2 to 3 days. So you might have people in the office Tuesday to Thursday and working from home on Mondays and Fridays.

Competence: People need to have the mastery and confidence to perform their work tasks. One of the most relevant concepts from positive psychology here is the strengths approach. Your greatest potential for growth comes from knowing and applying your strengths. Not only do they help you perform well but using your strengths will also strengthen your wellbeing and resilience. Make sure the tasks you do at home are drawing on your personal strengths and find ways to collaborate back in the office on the more challenging tasks so that you can tap into the wider team strengths.

Your strengths will also help you into a state of flow, where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing and enable you to perform at your best. To access a state of flow requires a balance between the challenge in the task and your underlying skill in the area. If the challenge is pitched too high for your skills, then you’re more likely to feel anxious, whereas if the challenge is too small for what you’re capable of, then you might just get bored. By matching your skill to the task you’re more likely to experience this deeply satisfying and productive state.

Relatedness: Last but certainly not least we all need a sense of belonging and connection. While it’s great to be able to focus without distraction, one of the greatest fundamentals for wellbeing is a sense of connection. The key here is to plan for connection, so that there you have that sense of belonging. Design in time to connect, have collaboration days in the office for brainstorming or creativity. Make time for a daily check-in, for example the morning meeting, the daily conference or huddle. Eschew email and pick up the phone or schedule a zoom call. When times are tough, then it’s best to lean into social support rather than go it alone.

We’ll be discussing more positive psychology ways to hybrid working in a free webinar on Weds 10 Nov at 1900 GMT.

Please do join us and share your experience. Book your place via Eventbrite.

The next Positive Psychology Masterclass will be online and focus on workplace wellbeing. The dates are Nov 24-26 0900 to 1300 daily.



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