Embracing vulnerability and maintaining a routine are key for making it through.
The way we work has changed rapidly over the past 18 months, and while it has come with some perks (like hanging out with your pets all day and having access to the best snacks), this massive shift has also blurred the lines between work and home life.
A recent dive into the hybrid-work revolution by Microsoft has uncovered some stark truths, including that Gen Z employees are struggling to find balance when it comes to working from home.
Expectations of remote workers have changed, whether those demands have been verbalized or not, and much of the young workforce is finding it difficult to log off, get creative or find moments of quiet in the world that requires being online almost 24/7.
In its latest research, Microsoft explores the emerging trends of the workplaces of tomorrow.
According to the 2021 Work Trend Index: Annual Report, "The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?," the generation of today and tomorrow is struggling to feel engaged or even excited about work. They're speaking up less, and they're feeling uninspired and out of new ideas.
If this resonates with you, be assured that you're not alone — your peers are feeling the same way. Supported by key findings from Microsoft's research, these tips might just be what you need to start feeling good about your work.
After all, you spend the majority of your week logged in; it's about time you feel energized and inspired again.
Take A Few Minutes Of Quiet Every Day
Though we may be set up in the comfort of home, it seems that the expectations of virtual employees have only increased. Before you know it, 7 p.m. has crept up before you finally step away from your desk. Don't let burnout be your WFH norm.
Taking a few minutes of no-screen time every day is essential, and it's something the great minds have been doing since long before Microsoft Teams convos were a thing.
"To avoid burnout, Dr. Albert Einstein sat in a tub and watched the bubbles," Dr. Mary Donohue, Founder of The Digital Wellness Centre, shares in Microsoft's report.
"No one could talk to him. He was thinking and watching the bubbles. To reduce your risk of burnout, take a few minutes every day to have quiet. Even three minutes a day will make a difference."
Use Networking As A Way To Build Meaningful Connections
"Networking as someone early in their career has gotten so much more daunting since the move to fully remote work — especially since switching to a totally different team during the pandemic," says Hannah Mcconnaughey, Microsoft's Product Marketing Manager, in the Microsoft report.
"Without hallway conversations, chance encounters, and small talk over coffee, it's hard to feel connected even to my immediate team, much less build meaningful connections across the company."
But, that doesn't mean networking is impossible. Take advantage of virtual meetings and set up one-to-ones with the people whose brains you'd like to pick. You never know where a connection may lead. Plus, setting yourself up for future referrals is something you'll be glad you did.
Foster Innovation & Productivity By Being Social
Another insight from the study is that connecting with your team is essential to productivity and innovation. Participants who felt the most productive reported having the strongest workplace relationships and felt included at work.
On the flip side, the respondents who felt they had weaker relationships at work also self-reported that they were less likely to be thriving at many work skills including collaborating, sharing new ideas and thinking strategically.
Building up relationships with your coworkers could help you feel unstuck and move from uninspired to being a top innovator.
According to Dr. Nancy Baym, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft: "When you lose connections, you stop innovating. There are no new ideas getting in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility."
Embrace Vulnerability (Even At Work) For Better Well-Being
Hands up if you've had a genuine conversation with a colleague about the realities of the past two years. It turns out that those vulnerable interactions are key to making employees feel comfortable to be themselves at work and help develop authentic workplace bonds.
"Before the pandemic, we encouraged people to 'bring their whole self to work,' but it was tough to truly empower them to do that," says Jared Spataro, CVP at Microsoft 365.
"The shared vulnerability of this time has given us a huge opportunity to bring real authenticity to company culture and transform work for the better."
So don't be shy to turn your camera on, introduce your pets to your colleagues and share how you've really been feeling — it's good for you.
Be Honest About Where You're At With Yourself & Your Boss
Are you genuinely thriving working virtually, or are you craving the hustle and bustle of the office? As employers start to look at their work models, your input is essential in helping to shape future policies.
"Over the past 12 months, we've figured out how to get things done when everyone is working from home," Jared shares of emerging workplace trends.
"Now we need to rethink how to handle that messy middle — when some people are together in-person, and others are remote."
Speak up, whether it's through anonymous surveys or having an honest chat with your manager. This is your chance to help design a work structure that helps you thrive.
Bring Back The Pleasantries To Your Virtual Calls
"In one internal study of over 600 information workers, we saw that at the beginning of the pandemic, people would begin meetings with pleasantries and checking in to see how everyone was doing," shares Dr. Baym.
"But then they realized, 'Oh, my gosh. So many meetings. I'm completely overwhelmed. I don't have energy for this.'"
While you might be internally cringing at the thought of yet another meeting, take a breath and greet your virtual colleagues as you would if you were in the office. You might just begin to look forward to those virtual check-ins.
Also, don't be afraid to cut the fluff when it comes to your schedule — not every check-in needs to be a video call.
"More dynamic, creative, or emotional topics may require a meeting," says Dr. Sean Rintel, principal researcher at Microsoft focused on socially intelligent meetings.
"[W]hereas informational, status, and technical topics may benefit from more long-form document collaboration, a Teams channel, or email. Other simple tasks may be handled via chat."
Maintain A Healthy Routine & Leave The House
It may feel as though you're glued to your computer all day, but one of the benefits of working from home is that you can take your dog out for a midday walk and get in a little natural light here and there.
You could run a quick errand when it's quiet, walk down the block to grab lunch or take a meeting on the phone while you stretch your legs. If you're feeling creatively stuck, sometimes a change of scenery is all you need to kick back into gear.
Make an effort to get a little outside time before, during and after work, and see what a difference it can make to your ability to focus and enjoy your workday.
Burnout is an understandable side effect of living in the world right now, but it doesn't have to stick around forever.
Optimizing your WFH routines with these tips will help make it easier to properly unplug. With a few simple changes to your workday, you'll be able to reconnect with what you love about your job.
The hybrid work environment is here to stay, so set yourself up for success with the wisdom of Microsoft and some actionable steps.