FOMO, Burnout, and the Hybrid Workplace: 3 Things Managers Need to Know About the New World of Work

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As US vaccination rates continue to climb and states lift restrictions and mandates, companies are starting to bring employees back to the office. But at the same time, employees are leaving the workforce in droves.

Four million people quit their jobs in April, looking for better pay and work conditions. Many others are saying “YOLO” – “You only live once” – and quitting their careers entirely, living off their savings and hoping to get more out of their post-pandemic lives than being chained to a desk.

These trends signal a shift in the labor market’s balance of power, with workers holding the upper hand for the first time in generations. Many companies — especially those in retail — can’t hire fast enough, leading many to reevaluate traditional workplace practices and processes. As a result, we are witnessing the rise of the hybrid work model.

Results from MindEdge Learning’s second annual remote work survey, The State of Remote Work 2021: The Age of the Hybrid Workplace, show that 49 percent of survey respondents say their companies will institute a hybrid work model in 2021. The national online survey of 848 US past or present remote workers also found heightened concerns about workplace safety: 59 percent of those who have not yet returned to their workplaces say they are worried they will have to go back before it is safe to do so.

Aside from safety concerns, many employees have found that remote work has made their jobs easier, mostly due to increased flexibility. Sixty-six percent of survey respondents cite flexibility as the No. 1  reason for saying that remote work has made their jobs easier.

Below are some key observations from the MindEdge survey findings and other similar research. Managers who are concerned about keeping turnover to a minimum should keep these points in mind as they transition to hybrid work models:

Hybrid Work Can Lead to FOMO and Perceived Inequities in Compensation

We’re entering a new era of workforce culture, one in which having everyone in the office will no longer be the norm — or even the desired option. In a survey of 423 marketing professionals conducted by We Are Rosie, 100 percent of respondents wanted the option to work remotely going forward. Similarly, MindEdge’s State of Remote Work report found that workers would like to spend only 3.3 days per week in the office on average. Only a quarter (24 percent) say they would like to work in their office five days a week; roughly the same number (27 percent) say they would like to spend only one or two days a week in the office.

Nonetheless, 62 percent of survey respondents express at least some concerns about working in a hybrid model. The top concern, voiced by 20 percent of respondents, is a fear of missing out on camaraderie with colleagues.

Compensation and promotions are also big concerns for many remote workers. In another recent survey, BambooHR reported that remote workers estimate they lost more than $9,800, on average, in the form of delayed or denied promotions during the pandemic. In MindEdge’s State of Remote Work study, one-third of survey respondents say workers who work in person will do better in terms of raises and promotions than those who choose to work remotely. Perhaps significantly, members of management are somewhat more likely (39 percent) to say that remote workers will come up short in terms of raises and promotions.

Burnout and Mental Health Implications

More and more employees are dealing with burnout. Digiday recently reported that coaching platform Bravely has seen a 700 percent increase in sessions addressing stress and burnout since the pandemic began. Much of this burnout is tied to overwork: As we all know, it can be hard to know when to close the laptop when we’re working from home.

In MindEdge’s survey, 37 percent of survey respondents feel remote work has had a negative effect on their mental health. On the other hand, 24 percent of workers feel that working remotely has had a positive effect on their mental health.

Compared to the results of last year’s remote work survey from MindEdge, this year’s respondents are somewhat more upbeat about the effect of remote work on their job situations. Thirty-seven percent say that working remotely has made their jobs easier, up from 26 percent last year. About a quarter (24 percent) say working remotely has made their jobs harder, down slightly from 30 percent in 2020. Among those who say that remote work has made their jobs harder, 60 percent cite technological problems and 56 percent cite the increased number of meetings and phone calls.

Taken together, these findings suggest that managers need to be on the lookout for signs of stress among their subordinates. Frequent employee surveys and regular listening sessions about mental health and burnout can yield valuable feedback in a timely manner.

Hiring and Training a Remote Workforce

The US economy added 559,000 jobs in May, so it’s no surprise that 55 percent of managers in the MindEdge survey say their companies are now hiring. This is up significantly from last year’s survey, which found that only 37 percent of managers were hiring.

Despite this increase in hiring, a recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs found that demand for office space is shrinking. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, 74 percent of CEOs say they’ll need less office space in the future — another sign that the hybrid work model is catching on.

Among managers whose companies are hiring, 80 percent say that certifications — exam-based credentials awarded by an industry-recognized authority — add value to a candidate’s resume. Fully 39 percent say that certifications add “a great deal of value.” These figures are higher than we saw in last year’s survey, when 72 percent of managers said certifications add value, and 28 percent said they add “a great deal of value.” The high value that employers place on certifications, even in a tight talent market, should send a clear message to job seekers: If you want to stand out from the crowd, certifications can help you do just that.

While certifications reflect an applicant’s training in specific job skills, the new hybrid work model also requires that workers know how to work remotely. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents say they have received remote-work training through their companies, and 84 percent of managers say they would benefit from training on how to manage remote workers. As the workplace goes hybrid, we anticipate a major spike in demand for training of all sorts.

As the effects of the pandemic continue to dwindle, one lesson is clear: Humans will find ways to adapt, no matter the circumstance — and even in the workplace. Today, employers need to adapt to a rapidly changing world where the rules of work are in flux and workers, at least for the moment, hold the upper hand.

Frank Connolly is director of communications and research at MindEdge Learning.

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Frank Connolly is director of communications and research at MindEdge, overseeing the firm's public-opinion polling and also working in instructional design. An award-winning columnist and editor in alternative media, Frank later spent more than 20 years as a political consultant and pollster, advising candidates for president, US senator, governor, and other offices.