While the pandemic proved that working from home can be just as effective as working from the office, there are certain downsides to a 100% work from home model. One of these is the phenomenon of “Zoom fatigue” – a lesson that Heritage Bank put to work in assessing the future working arrangements of staff once lockdown was over.
“It’s extremely mentally taxing trying to sit through multiple virtual meetings each day,” said CEO Peter Lock. “You need to put some limits around that.”
Last week Heritage announced it would move to a hybrid working model for the foreseeable future, meaning back-office staff can balance working from the office and working from home. Lock said the bank decided to do this to allow greater flexibility for its people.
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“Working from home 100% of the time didn’t suit many of our people, and we are very mindful of the potential mental health issues of working in isolation,” he said. “A hybrid model, with some time spent working from home and some time in the office, is an arrangement that gives us the best of both worlds.”
Most of the bank’s office staff moved to work from home at the height of the pandemic – a feat that was made possible thanks to the work of its IT team and the adaptability of staff. It wasn’t just access to core systems and platforms that was essential for a successful transition. Remote meeting capabilities were also crucial, something the bank managed through Microsoft Teams.
“We are a nimble and agile organisation, and that flexibility was essential in quickly moving to a work from home model at the height of the pandemic,” he said.
While the rapid transition to work from home was a success, there were a couple of lessons Heritage took away from the experience. One of these was the need to address Zoom fatigue by putting boundaries around the number of virtual meetings being conducted each day. But more importantly, the bank found that there needed to be certain boundaries in place to help workers cope with the lack of distinction between work and home life.
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“We found some people had trouble switching off,” he explained. Mental health was another major issue that Heritage wanted to address.
“The overwhelming response we got from staff afterwards was that they wanted the flexibility to keep working from home some of the time, but to also come into the office to mix with their colleagues part of the time as well,” he said. “That’s a healthy balance which is great for productivity, team morale and job satisfaction. We had to make sure that we incorporated ways for teams to connect, despite working remotely. I don’t think we can underestimate the potential for impacts on mental health if people are isolated from their colleagues all of the time.”
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