The COVID-19 pandemic has been a contributing factor in several problems that have arisen in the workplace, such as “the great resignation,” “quiet quitting,” “over employment,” labor shortages, and disputes between employees and managers regarding returning to work in person.

The Health and Happiness of Workers May Be at the Root of Many of These Problems

Two recent studies emphasize the significance of maintaining social connections at work and provide evidence that working from home is not necessarily the most effective workplace arrangement. It’s possible that hybrid work schedules that include time spent at home could help improve mental health and reduce the risk of burnout.

So, What Exactly is Mental Burnout?

Burnout is defined as “a symptom construed as a result of chronic job stressors that hasn’t been successfully managed,” according to the International Classification of Diseases.

Burnout is a condition that can be diagnosed and is characterized by the following three symptoms:

  • physical fatigue, disassociation with one’s job and coworkers, and a pessimistic outlook on one’s job and career all contribute to burnout.
  • Burnout can feel exactly like the analogy that describes it: something likened to a charred and shriveled match stick that is cold to the touch. This is something that many individuals who have suffered from burnout can attest to.

What Factors Lead to Burnout, and What Can Be Done to Prevent It?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately fifty percent of workers and fifty-three percent of managers have experienced burnout, according to research conducted across the globe. It is abundantly clear that workplaces are not thriving.

As a social epidemiologist who studies modern mental anguish within the environment of public health crises, we’ve been very interested in learning what factors led to burnout and how it could be successfully managed, particularly in light of the ongoing difficulties caused by COVID-19.

One would think that at this point, researchers would know all there is to understand burnout. After all, research on burnout can be traced back to the late 1970s at the earliest. Since that time, a significant number of studies have been carried out, the majority of which have concentrated on workplace conditions including wages, hours, management styles, and the intangible “workplace culture.”

As a consequence of this, the management of burnout has frequently concentrated on restructuring work environments and improving the management of poor performers. Even though it is obvious that these are required, it is not immediately obvious that they are sufficient.

As a result of the pandemic’s emergence, a great number of people now have a heightened awareness of the fact that it is impossible to separate one’s work from their life. Some people become aware of this fact because of how exhausted they feel when they return home from working a shift. The line between the home and the office is blurred, which may be a contributing factor for people who work from home.

In any event, our mental and emotional health is always present with us, regardless of whether we are at home or the office. As a result of this, it makes perfect sense for us to consider burnout from a more holistic perspective. The lack of social connection is a primary factor in burnout.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Home-based Employment From a Social Perspective

The research group at Simon Fraser University conducted a study not too long ago in which we sought to determine the factors that pose the greatest threat of burnout. We examined a wide variety of factors, including the traditional factors of workload, adequacy of pay, integrity in the workplace, and influence over one’s job, y, as well as more new factors such as buying a home, an assortment of demographic variables, social support, and loneliness.

As a result of carrying out this research, we concluded that feelings of isolation and a dearth of social support are the primary causes of burnout. These factors may be just as important, if not more so, than a person’s state of physical health and level of financial stability. In a nutshell, the findings of the study contribute to an ever-expanding comprehension of burnout as a societal issue that is caused by isolation.

The rising popularity of home-based employment is one trend that could eventually become a source of social isolation. Working from home offers a wide variety of advantages, which a large number of individuals have had the opportunity to discover. People can cut down on the amount of time they spend commuting, giving them more freedom to take care of errands around the house or catch a few winks during their breaks. Because of this, at the end of the day, they will have additional time and energy to spend with their friends and family.

On the contrary, working from home means missing out on conversations around the water cooler and chance encounters with coworkers, both of which have an unexpectedly significant impact on one’s overall sense of well-being. A loss of these areas could have particularly long consequences for people’s social health, particularly if the time that was previously spent with other individuals at work is now spent at home alone. This is because workplaces and schools are two of the most important places for people to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships.

The Significance of Having Meaningful Relationships to One’s Health and Happiness

A second study to investigate the distinctions in self-rated mental health between individuals who operated only from home, mostly in person, or who started working partially in person and partially at home. This was done to gain an understanding of the effects that working from home has on an individual’s mental health. We took into account potential confounding variables such as income, the number of hours worked, profession, age, gender, and ethnic background in our analysis.

According to the findings of our study, 54% of people who worked only in person reported having outstanding mental health, while 63% of people who worked only at home said they had excellent mental health. Based on these findings, one might conclude that working from home is beneficial to one’s mental health, which is a finding that runs counter to the findings of an increasing number of research that highlight the drawbacks and difficulties of working from home.

However, there is a catch: an astounding 87% of those who disclosed a hybrid working schedule had excellent or good psychological health. This means that they worked partially in person and partially at home.

Our findings demonstrate the possibility that hybrid work could perhaps give workers the combination of both worlds. This is especially significant in the context of our initial study, which emphasized the significance of human engagement to workplace well-being. Whereas the type of tasks done at home and in person influences these trends, our findings nonetheless indicate the possibility that hybrid work might give workers the best of both worlds.

Employees may be able to keep those good connections with their coworkers through the use of hybrid work arrangements, which also provide a good balance between their work and personal lives. This arrangement may offer the advantages of both worlds, at least for people who are able to make it work.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, as employers and employees continue to adjust to the new normal, the findings of our research serve as a powerful reminder for all of us to remember the significance of maintaining social connections. It is all too simple to overlook that the framework of health and happiness both within and outside of the workforce is solid social relationships and communities.