Jennifer Moss, an author and a workplace expert, who writes e.g. for the Harvard Business Review, has been looking into the root causes of burnout, which has been rapidly growing during the pandemic.

She lists some of them as follows:

  • Workload – During the pandemic the “average workday grew by an hour”, which is not sustainable.

  • Community – Loneliness, which is a top health risk grows heavily when social distancing increases. When one cannot socialize with the colleagues at the office.

  • Unfairness – This time of pandemic has not treated us all equally. It is already shown, that the negative impact hits women with “four times as many women as men dropping out of the labor force”.

  • Hits unevenly. Well-being scores are showing the negative impact – however it’s not evenly distributed.

How to tackle the stress and increase or secure the well-being?

Time management becomes crucial when days get jammed. One phaenomenon Moss talks about is the “Zoom burnout”. As an advice she points out the following:

“Question each aspect of a meeting, whether it’s video, cameras on, call, necessary at all, length of time. Include check-ins. Try to end early.”

I’ve had the habit of starting and ending the meetings – not on the hour, but rather 5 past or 10 to. That leaves people with time to breath, have a bio break before the next session starts. Back-to-back meetings will kill us and will lead exhaustion. I’ve also used walking meetings and standing meetings – when in the same space that is. Standing automatically shortens meetings and people concentrate on the essentials.

Sense of community

We all need some form of Sense of community. One infrastructure company sent its team members chocolate, which stated “Thank You” – not expensive, nothing big, but definitely made the employees happy for a moment. Some are experimenting with virtual coffee rooms or breaks – where one can drop “in” any time, or at scheduled, unofficial Zoom or Teams sessions. I’ve had plenty of virtual morning coffees and they do tend to help.

“The more purpose we feel, the more connected we feel to the mission, the better it is for staff in their well-being.”
Jennifer Moss

Fighting Unfairness starts with awareness – is this the case with your office as well? Are some members excluded based on them being different (aka not representing majority)? Does it feel like some know more than others – are they being treated differently? During crises people tend to “turn to their managers for support” even more, which again increases their workload. One-on-ones are needed and discussion has to take place – as much as needed. When one has no-one to talk to, the wrong ideas, assumptions and conclusions might become “facts”.

Not all experience today’s situation the same. Katri Saarikivi, a Cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Helsinki, whose talk on “The workplace empowering the human performance” I was following the other day (April 2021), pointed out, that there are some common, almost universal elements in how the office helps or prevents the working and innovations.

A workplace is considered positive, when it contains some or all of the following:

  • Plants

  • Pleasing sounds, smells

  • Window aka view

  • Enough space

  • Individual and open spaces

  • Relaxation spaces

A “brain-friendly workspace” allows an individual a feeling of control – people e.g. usually want to sit in the same spot! The experience of control is important for performance and satisfaction.

We at KIBIT have extensive experience from working with multi-national and -locational projects, visiting the HQ or the customer’s home site only when needed. And yet getting the work done as expected. With a reasonable cost.