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#048 – Navigating Toxic Workplaces and Remote Work (with Dr. Laura Hambley Lovett)

Podcast Summary

Remote work, hybrid work, and back to office orders. These topics are taking up a lot of bandwidth these days. A key part of this focus is because companies are still coming to terms with the massive workplace changes of the past few years. That has led to a mental health pandemic that doesn’t seem to be going away, and rising levels of stress and burnout in the workplace.

To shed some light on these challenges and solutions, I’m excited to have Dr. Laura Hambley Lovett on the show today. She’s a rockstar PhD and organizational psychologist who was researching remote work way back in 2003.

Dr. Laura is an Organizational Psychologist and expert on workplace psychology with a specialty on the future of work and career development. Her work passion is creating cultures where people stay and thrive, so that companies can attract top talent.

Dr. Laura has founded several psychology and consulting practices, including Canada Career Counselling in 2009, where registered psychologists help 1000s of Canadians navigate their career and workplace challenges, and support organizations with career transitions.


She holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Calgary, where she is currently an Adjunct Professor. Dr. Laura received a Canadian Women of Inspiration Award as a Global Influencer in 2018.

Episode Links & Resources

Connect with Dr. Laura Hambley Lovett here:

Founder, Canada Career Counseling


Website Resources:


Podcast Transcript

Please note: This transcript is generated by computer and may contain errors


The Evolution of Work: Remote, Hybrid, and Office DynamicsIntroduction

Remote work, hybrid work, and back to office orders. These topics are taking up a lot of bandwidth these days. And a key part of this focus is because companies are still coming to terms with the massive workplace changes of the past few years. This has led to a mental health epidemic that doesn’t seem to be going away.

One that’s causing rising levels of stress and burnout in the workplace.

Introducing Dr. Laura Hambly Lovett: A Pioneer in Remote Work Research

Now to shed some light on these challenges and talk about solutions, I’m excited to have Dr. Laura Hambly Lovett on the show today. She’s a rockstar PhD and organizational psychologist who was researching remote work back in 2003.

As an organizational psychologist and expert on workplace psychology, Dr. Laura has a specialty on the future of work and career development. Her work passion is creating cultures where people stay and thrive so that companies can attract top talent. Dr. [00:01:00] Laura holds a PhD in industrial organizational psychology from the University of Calgary Where she is currently an adjunct professor, she also received the Canadian Women of Inspiration Award as a Global Influencer in 2018.

Welcome to the Working Well Podcast, the show that explores the rapidly changing landscape of work and well being. Each episode, we dive into the hottest topics in leadership, employee well being, and the future of work. I’m your host, Tim Borris. Dr. Laura, great to have you on the show. Welcome to the Working Well podcast.

Thank you so much, Tim. It’s a pleasure to be here and Working is what I’m all about as well. Exactly. I’ve been excited to have you on the show for a while, and we’ve got lots of topics to cover.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Work Culture and Mental Health

We had discussed a number of different things and I’m curious to hear your perspective on things like remote work and [00:02:00] toxic workplaces and how those come into play and some of the changes that we’ve been facing over the past few years.

Where do you want to start today? Wow, maybe some of the changes that we’ve been facing, so the bigger picture context that we’re in and then how that impacts people’s lives and the ways they want to work and the leadership skills that are needed going forward. Absolutely. And that’s a lot about what you do in your work as well.

And even some of the the research you pulled in, I know you’re an adjunct professor at the university. What are the changes you’re seeing over the past few years in employment in general, but particularly toxicity of workplaces? Sure. So essentially, I have specialized in remote and [00:03:00] Distributed work, so working apart from one another, teleworking, the human dynamics of all of that, the considerations from a leadership perspective, the considerations from a personality perspective, and how some people adjust really quickly to working remotely, and other people struggle without that structure and routine of the office.

But COVID changed everything in terms of. Almost everybody in some way, shape or form was doing that or exposed to that with their loved ones and families and pivoting to remote over the period of a number of weeks, essentially. And so it really turned things upside down in terms of people’s experience of being able to work remotely, being able to have more flexibility in their lives.

COVID’s Corporate Social Experiment

And it was, we thought of it, as researchers, we thought of it as, wow, this is like a huge pilot project and this is actually being taken up [00:04:00] in a widespread manner and we have to spread the messages about what works and what doesn’t and how to lead it and manage it. But the genie is out of the bottle.

So that’s one of the biggest things is now the genie’s out of the bottle. People have experienced it. And the latest trend is there’s a widespread, there’s a mix really going on. There’s a mix of pulling everyone back into the office. So some companies are declaring that those are the ones that tend to make it into the media.

And then there’s a lot that are saying, no, we’re going to continue along this line of flexibility and use it as a. A way to keep our organization healthy, to keep a strong culture and to retain talent and attract new talent. Yeah, I’m definitely seeing a lot of those things as well. And let’s, just to clarify, you’ve been doing research on remote work way before it was cool to do.

When did you start researching remote work? In 2000 and. [00:05:00] Yeah. Yeah. So I I did my doctoral research on that and I did a really large study of teams that were communicating by video conference versus teams that were communicating by text based chat and then teams that were communicating face to face and then how each team went about solving problems, communicating.

And what leadership styles worked best for those different, we call them media, different communication media. And it was so funny because the video platform we used back in 2003 is similar to Zoom. It’s everybody’s in a square on the screen and it was like, I have photos of that. It’s really retro, but it’s as if Zoom was a premonition back in those days.

Yeah, and I think people forgot or people forget that this wasn’t anything new. There was a [00:06:00] significant section of the population of the workforce that was working remotely, even people that traveled all the time. And in the in the fitness wellbeing side, we had clients for probably we’ve had clients for 15 years that we’ve worked with remotely.

People Keep Forgetting That Remote Work Is Not New!

Because they were traveling for work and we would still do our coaching sessions with them and we would do some over video, some over phone. The, it didn’t really matter just based on the circumstances of that person. And this isn’t something new, but the volume of people going through it, as you said, was a huge social experiment.

People were thrust into it and willingly, I guess you would say at that point. Yeah. And then with this, the people are changing. There’s some way more focus now on mental health than there’s ever been, [00:07:00] which is really great as a psychologist to see that really being less stigmatized than it was before.

I say less because it’s still stigmatized, but less so there’s more open conversations and more people being vulnerable and authentic about. their own mental health struggles or those of their families. And so it’s, that’s gaining a lot of attention out there, which I think it really is needed because we’re in a mental health pandemic, I call it.

It’s an aftershock of the pandemic and the world is Very uncertain and there’s lots of challenges and the news is typically negative and I think people are struggling and yeah, so that’s another trend that I focus a lot on. What are the key reasons you’re seeing about why people are struggling and continue to struggle?

What are the Reasons People Struggle With Remote Work?

I think, there’s lots of reasons, right? So there’s reasons that have to [00:08:00] do with work and career and there’s reasons that have to do with non work and life and family and relationships and all those kinds of things. I decided as a psychologist, I wanted to focus on work and career because people spend a lot of their waking time in those domains and not a lot of psychologists At that time, we’re specializing in that there’s way more that specialize in clinical and counseling than work and career specifically.

So I got into my niche and turns out that you can’t separate career and work with the rest of life. Especially in a remote work environment. Yeah. But in general, people bring themselves to work if work is in an office or work is at home. It’s still dealing with human beings and the whole mental health conversation coming into workplaces and the pandemic.

And it’s really blended the two. And I’ve had to blend [00:09:00] the two as well as my master’s is in counseling psych. So I have that background, but my PhD being an organizational, which is a different lens, but both. Really overlap these days and I’m pulling on both fields in addition to business because in the end of the day, if you don’t have a thriving business.

Mental Health and the Digital Workforce

Nobody’s going to have a job, so it needs to be tied in to organizational success. Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly. I’m seeing a lot of companies these days, especially being or wellness has always been the first thing to go when times are tight. And in the workplace since COVID, there’s so much more awareness around that.

And I’ve, one of the trends I’ve noticed is this, I guess slide or lean or focus on digital. And everyone’s got the mental health [00:10:00] apps and they can be amazing tools, but without addressing the interpersonal factors within the organization, all the mental health apps and, websites and portals.

Are essentially useless because they’re just at band aids on. Yes totally. And I’ve been focused a lot on culture over the last number of years. And if you have a toxic culture, all of those band aids won’t work because it’s going to make people sick. Basically, it’s going to make people unwell and a culture can turn into a toxic one in a heck of a hurry if you have toxic.

people at the top.

Exploring Toxic Workplaces and Leadership Challenges

So I am starting a research project on the behaviors and I go, how do I say it? The behaviors and impacts of toxic leadership in organizations. So how would you, how would you [00:11:00] define toxic leadership? So toxic leadership are when someone in a supervisory position or a position where they have direct reports, and that can be from the CEO all the way to a first time supervisor, is when their behaviors do damage to the person’s ability to Be productive in their ability to feel well about themselves, their confidence their stress, their well being and it can take a variety of forms and I’m still on a learning journey with this, by the way, but it can take the form of narcissistic behaviors, bullying, abusive behaviors, passive aggressive leadership gaslighting.

A whole bunch of other things as well, but those are some examples. Yeah, and then I guess from what you said is that the culture is in part determined by the actions of all the leaders, [00:12:00] but how do the individual leaders and the cultures interact with each other across the whole organization? And what are some of the.

Oh, gosh. I always say, I think culture, you can have an organizational like culture initiative or. have a culture that is something that you work on as a company. But the bigger the company, the more subcultures there are just by the way of how it’s structured. And you can have a, one subculture being toxic while some of the others aren’t.

The Biggest Problem with Toxic Workplace Culture

But the problem is toxicity tends to spread and you have to be very vigilant about looking at it, understanding it, seeing it, where it is, catching it, finding it. And that needs to be something that’s done from the top. But the problem is at the top, if you have too much ego it’s really difficult to let the [00:13:00] ego aside so that you can Actually, want to understand and understand your impact as well.

And try to make a difference throughout the organizational culture. Yeah, I have a lot to say on this, but it’s something I’m really passionate about. And I think culture is formed leader by leader. So you got to address the leadership. Yeah and you made a good point about starting at the top.

Thanks. Really, it comes down to what are people, what are senior leaders willing to put up with and the actions and behaviors, what gets rewarded, what gets ignored, what gets addressed directly. And we see, or at least I’ve seen in clients who worked with a big disconnect between the marketed culture of the organization and the day to day reality.

How Leaders are Connected to (and Responsible for) Toxic Workplaces

The super driven results at all costs leaders [00:14:00] get rewarded financially, they get promoted. Yeah. And so it’s looking at the, not just the what or the results, but looking at the how and the human impact. And there’s no doubt about it that human impact, if you have toxicity, eventually it’s going to harm your production and your success.

It just may take a while. And yeah, it’s. It’s really tricky. But it’s a values based thing. It’s about what do you really value as a culture and an organization? And you shouldn’t be putting up those values if they’re not showing through in behaviors and leaders are being held accountable and people are being held accountable for honoring and living out those values.

Otherwise it does so much damage with the hypocrisy of all of that. Agreed. Yeah. And I’ve seen, coaching clients come in and they’re. This is the event session about what their workplace is like and [00:15:00] what their boss did today and what the, I guess the organizational or operational norms that are in place are not useful or functional and they’re creating this tension and stress and teams and departments because of what leaders are not addressing or what they’re just not even noticing sometimes.

And I think another trend is that, young people, younger generations are not wanting to put up with as much of the corporate BS as maybe the generations before where. For boomers, Oh, it was a rite of passage. It was just the way it was done, right? For my generation, Generation X, it was, yeah, we don’t like it, but, you got to, you don’t want to risk your job or, right?

But the younger [00:16:00] generations are saying, you know what? I’ll leave. I’ll go to the next one if it doesn’t align with my values. And if it’s, Doesn’t make sense, and it’s doesn’t make sense for me to be in an office 40 hours a week and doing things on my computer that I could do half the time from home, but that doesn’t make sense.

The Future of Work: Flexibility, Trust, and Culture

So I think that an organization has to be really careful about flexible work policies, because. Bringing everyone back to the office is a sign of a culture of distrust and a sign of a culture where presenteeism is is key to performance. And I think those are really dangerous traits to have as a culture.

If you don’t trust your people. And that’s why you’re bringing them back, and then they use the reason our culture is better if we’re together. And I say, but do you need to be together 40 hours a week? Really? Are you making great use of that 40 hours? Every [00:17:00] hour counts for collaboration and culture?

Or are people on their computers a lot, getting work done that they could have done other places? And you brought up two points there. One is trust, and we will dive into that for sure. And the other one was the presenteeism aspect. And that’s something that’s not addressed a lot in workplaces and something that, that I’ve over my career tried to promote and really.

Raise awareness of in organizations when we’re consulting with them is all the studies about how actually effective and productive people are throughout the day are stunningly low in terms of presentism. And there are lots of factors that contribute to that, as you said, in external to work as well as internal, but it’s 3, 3, and a half hours per day that people are actually.

The Dirty Secret of the 40 Hour Work Week!

Directly focused and productive from some of the more recent studies that I’ve seen [00:18:00] and That is crazy. Yeah, it’s definitely not 40 hours. Actually talking to The gentleman Andrew barnes who was one of the founders of the four day workweek global movement And that’s exactly what they find, is that people don’t need to be, employed for five days a week.

They can do it in four, and when they do it in four, they’re more productive on those four days, in order to honor the flexibility of the fifth day in their lives. Do you know what I mean? They, you get as much done in the four days and the data says that over and I’m going to learn more about that.

I’m going to read their latest data, but it’s just what you say, Tim. It’s that people are not productive eight hours a day, five days a week. On average and that’s another factor that, that I’ve addressed in various programs we’ve run too, is that the [00:19:00] whole mindset of leaders and this comes back to the trust that you talked about is you got a clock in at nine o’clock and you clock out at five and whether you’re actually using a physical punch clock and no one uses that anymore, but there’s the mindset of this nine to five, you show up and do your work and you take your lunch break, maybe.

Neurodiversity at Work

And then you work till the end of the day. A lot of people, especially when we talk about neurodiversity have trouble in that box and by adapting and adjusting what we do and how we approach work. We’re able to not only help people be happier, healthier and thrive, but be more productive. They will get more work done in less time by structuring the workday in ways that help people improve their energy, improve their focus, improve collaboration and [00:20:00] teamwork and do all these things.

And a lot of that doesn’t have to do with being physically in the same office. Exactly. Yeah, culture is not just the physical artifacts and the bumping into each other in the halls and culture is so much more than that. It’s how you rally around someone who’s struggling and it’s how you serve a client who needs something from you and how you make decisions and how much autonomy and trust you have.

That’s all part of being in a culture. And. Yeah I call BS on you need to be together 40 hours a week, unless you’re on an assembly line where the thing that I’m doing goes to Tim and then it goes to the next person. Yeah, we need to be together for that. But yeah, I have news, anything repetitive like that will be AI in the future.

Navigating the Shift: Strategies for Effective Remote and Hybrid Work

And from what we’ve talked about before and what I’ve seen from some of your work is talk a little bit more about the remote work and the hybrid. Being able [00:21:00] to still maintain an effective culture, what types of things need to happen for that to thrive for people to have any remote or hybrid culture.

Yeah, so first of all, it’s again, I think culture is team by team, right? So each team or unit or working unit. Might have different idiosyncrasies in the way that they do their work, in the way that they collaborate, in the coordination and handoff of things, etc. So if you think of a team of programmers compared to a team of salespeople, it’s very different.

Like it’s the amount of verbal exchange, the amount of client interaction, etc. So we have to say, A, it’s not a one size fits all. B, it differs team by team, and there’s this concept that I talk a lot about called me versus we, so it’s important that as a leader you understand what Tim’s needs are, what Laura’s [00:22:00] needs are.

We may each have different needs. In terms of I might really appreciate going into an office, right? I might have two little kids at home with a, a nanny and I need to get out of that house because it’s gonna, the kids are going to constantly interrupt me. I may not have a good home office set up in my home, and I love the structure of the office, and I may need that, and you, on the other hand, may have a place in Canmore that you want to spend Thursday through Sunday at, and you may want to and need to work remotely in order to do that a day or two a week and then someone else might prefer three days a week remote because of the nature of their job, so it’s important to understand that.

Thanks. Each of us have unique needs in terms of our lives. Our commute times are the ability to work based on our personality and, our work style. And then on top of that, there’s the we, what we need as a team, what we [00:23:00] need. To help serve the other people on our team, like what our leader needs, right?

What Do Employees Need from Their Hybrid Workplace Experience?

It’s about, okay what are the broader needs here? And let’s find a compromise that will serve me and we, and as a team, we’ll figure out, okay, how many overlap days do we need? Do we need and during those days, what are we going to intentionally focus on to make the best possible use of the interactive in person time?

And then when we’re apart, how are we going to communicate? How are we going to stay in sync? Et cetera. And what are my expectations when I reach out? What hours will you be available? How quickly will you respond? And you start to build trust that way in terms of you’re there when you say you’ll be there and you’re reliable and work gets done regardless of where you are.

So that’s the way that I. I always suggest it is to do a team playbook or charter around how each team is going to function in a hybrid model. [00:24:00] Yeah, and that realistically should be happening whether you’re in the office or not is. Here’s our mission, vision, values. Here’s our purpose.

Here’s the, here are the goals we’re shooting for. Here are the expectations of how we interact as a team. And here are the check ins and my wife likes to say, trust, but verify. It’s you trust that people are going to want to do the work, but you need to verify by checking in with them. One thing I’ve seen over the past few years talking to coaching clients and just.

Colleagues within the corporate industries is that great leaders are people focused and they’re checking in and they’re making sure that their teams have what they want. And they were doing that before, but it’s really highlighted for leaders since we’ve moved to the remote or hybrid is [00:25:00] because technical leaders that are used to doing the work.

And not leading people are their teams are languishing because they’re not checking in with them. They’re not making that personal connection. They’re not helping them work through the challenges. They’re just like, you need to show up at the office so I can make sure you’re there and doing your work.

Leadership Best Practices for Reducing Stress & Burnout

Do you? Yeah. Yes. Exactly. Bums in seats, right? Yeah. It’s just, and the younger generations, just some of them are going to call BS on this and they already are. And they’ll walk. Yeah. It’s the I love the fact that the younger generations are not putting up with the status quo. As a business owner, entrepreneur, like the corporate world has not ever made a lot of sense to me because even when I was a personal trainer many years ago, I would deal with the aftermath or the fallout [00:26:00] of stress and burnout in the workplace and people would come to go to the gym and I’m like, you’re a mess.

Why? Like your body’s not ready to perform in the gym because you’re not taking care of yourself. You’re. Your work environment is toxic. You’re the laundry list of things that weren’t happening yet. That was just seen as the status quo. It’s we got to do the grind. We got to put in the work got to do this.

I just have to put up with it because that’s what’s always been done. And now this next generation is hell no, I don’t want that. How long do you think it’s going to take to create get the flywheel going for long term change? Oh, Lord. First of all, generations, right? So there’s lots of There’s mindsets and you can have generational tendencies and not be in that generation. So sometimes I’m seeing leaders who are in their 30s, [00:27:00] okay, that have boomer mentalities when it comes to work as a place, not an activity. I must see you. So just because someone’s in a younger demographic does not mean that.

Flexibility and Trust in Leadership

They are open to flexibility and trust. But I think overall, if we were to look at the trends in general, I think the genie’s out of the bottle, this isn’t going away and people will speak with their feet. The problem is we have a. An unstable economy with high interest rates and the market has softened and now employers are saying, okay, yeah, no, I’m not worried about losing people there.

Where are they going to go? Versus before it was the great resignation and the fight for talent. Now they get way too complacent too quickly. And I think what’s going to happen is the next time there’s. Shortage of talent, et cetera. It’s the ones that expose flexibility and trust their people and have [00:28:00] healthy versus toxic cultures where people are going to want to work end of story.

Yeah. And we’re already seeing some of that, but like you said, I think it will take quite a bit longer to really see the longer term impact of living into people and culture more than just flat out business results. The companies that focus on both. Are going to thrive long term. I really believe that.

100 percent believe that. And I mean I believe in the impacts. I believe in karma. I believe in, if you are negatively treating people negatively. Chances are it’s going to come back at you, so you got to be very, how you treat people matters, and I just posted on this today, how you treat people in layoffs [00:29:00] matters, because it’s the people who stay who remember how you treated their friends and colleagues.

Yeah, and it’s those friends and colleagues who are gone that they’re going to either say neutral things about your company or terrible things, or maybe good things, depending on how you handled it. Maybe they were ready for a change, too. They were handled with dignity, treated fairly, given a good package, given career transition support, which is one of the things my company Canada Career Counseling does, but they’re treated with fairness and then they’re likely to be ambassadors versus, out to get your culture, slamming it on glass door and indeed and just like all this negative energy out there is not good for Your reputation.

And on that note, we’ve got a lot of companies now mandating back to work five days a week. What are the repercussions of that? So first of all, [00:30:00] the wording back to work is something that I’m on a mission to change because it’s not back to work. It’s back to the office. Yes. Yes. Back to work is actually a form of microaggression because it’s like, you weren’t working that hard before, Laura yeah, get your butt into this seat and then you’ll be working hard.

So it’s subtle, but it’s a languaging thing and I catch it all over the place. I’m so glad, I’m so glad you mentioned that. It’s easy. I’ve even done it right. And my husband used to always do it. I’d correct him every time. And then it starts, but it takes a 150 corrections because it’s Work is a place.

It’s like a noun. It’s a, it’s combined as a verb and a noun in one. And this whole notion of where you can work from other places is, it’s about the notion of where are you working from today? And if I’m calling everybody back five days later, [00:31:00] A week, you better have a profound why about that, because people are going to see through the BS and they’re going to see, you don’t trust me, you don’t care about where I work best, you don’t care about soul sucking commutes that I’m going to have to do, only to come here and be on online a lot of the time anyway.

It’s just, it has to be well thought out and you need to hear your employees voices in it. And I’ve just seen senior leadership just say, enough, everybody back. We’re not doing this hybrid thing. We don’t do hybrid. We come together as a culture. And I would say that’s a symptom of not a great culture.

I’d be shocked if it’s a great culture and you’ve done that to your people. Call them back a hundred percent. Yes, absolutely. And it’s, I’d say it’s a failure in leadership to build that, the trust, the accountability, the skills in their their, in the [00:32:00] leaders across the organization to create thriving teams.

And I, yeah, thank you again for bringing up the point of the back to work versus back to office. It’s very much like the social distancing versus physical distancing. It’s that whole difference of. Yeah, no, we’re just. Physically not together, but we’re still connected and we can still build a relationship and a culture and in teams.

Exactly, maybe because I’ve done it my whole career. So when I finished my Masters in 1999, I was on virtual teams and my team was in Calgary, Toronto and New York, and then we got acquired by a global firm. So I had colleagues. And I was used to communicating and collaborating from a distance. And I felt like I had some really good mentors.

I had some really good colleagues. I had some colleagues that we developed great bonds before we even met in person. And I like, I experienced all of that. And I’m [00:33:00] anyone that says you can’t have culture unless you’re together every day. That doesn’t make sense to me. Yeah, I’ve had some great guests on the show that have built globally distributed teams and companies and are thriving.

You can absolutely do it. And people say, Oh, that’s just like software. We’re not a software or, that company, and it’s not just that it’s the mindset of leadership to put the work in to change their skill set and change their perspective on what it takes to build thriving teams and people.

Exactly, and it’s not a one size fits all, and it’s not a one size fits all for a team. Every team is different. And again, like coming to the office every day, if that works for you and your job, then great, right? Awesome. It just doesn’t work for everyone. [00:34:00]

The Role of Flexibility in Mental Health and Work Satisfaction

And explain a bit about what your definition is of flexible work.

Flexibility can be time, so you can have flexibility about your start time, your end time that sort of thing. Time is one metric, and then location. Is another metric. So you’re flexible to work and usually it’s from home, but you’re flexible to work from home, your recreational property a coffee shop.

If you focus well in that way, who knows? There’s security issues and stuff to, to play into all of this, of course, but it, there’s the flexibility is about time and location primarily. And how does that relate to mental health? Yeah. What are the stats showing, or studies showing? Yeah, so it’s idiosyncratic, so it depends on the person, right?

So some people get, get their [00:35:00] most social connection through coming into an office and being around human beings, because maybe they do not have that in their personal life. Maybe they’re single, they live alone, they’re quite isolated, and those ones really struggle during the pandemic. really sucked for them.

So those people, if you eroded an office and you said, we’re going to be 100 percent remote, it probably wouldn’t be as good for their mental health. On the flip side of it is some people who have social anxiety or different forms of anxiety. They, Or they’re sensitive, they’re a highly sensitive person or they’re neurodivergent, right?

Certain forms of neurodivergence and neurodiversity do better from a home location. They’re less triggered, there’s less things in the environment that’ll distract them [00:36:00] or, impact their, their stress levels, their focus, their productivity microaggressions. So diverse groups report fewer microaggressions when you don’t have the face to face, comments of the office and things or in groups, out groups of the office.

So I’m the one who, sees everyone going to lunch and I’m not invited and things like that, that It can be those in groups and out groups form more easily at the office. So those are just considerations, but flexibility is inclusivity. So if you don’t have flexibility, you’re not being as inclusive with different working needs and.

Personal needs and how does just autonomy of choice fit into it? I know one of the, if we go to the Gallup like the Q12 or whatever, one of the questions is, [00:37:00] do you feel you have control over your decisions at work? And how would flexibility fit into that? If people can choose whether to come into the office or not.

I know that’s another form of autonomy, but what are you seeing in that area? It’s a huge form of autonomy, and one of the reasons people are resisting this call back and herd the cattle back to the office, I call it, is because they are losing their autonomy, and they’re losing the choice. And when you take away choice from people that had the choice.

It’s not a good thing. It’s like the gift of flexibility is a gift and you’re taking it away. It’s almost like saying to someone, you’re going to get a bonus and then you’re not going to get a bonus, right? So it changes the conditions of your. Your work agreement, whether it’s a paper agreement or a psychological contract where you [00:38:00] came on to this company because they did have flexible work and they did trust me to work.

Flexible Work Schedules

2 days from home, and now they’re trusting me to work 0 days from home. So my choice is taken away. That’s a real problem for human motivation and commitment. And I know, got to be conscious of our time today, and this could be a whole other podcast episode on its own, but open Pandora’s box by saying, how does that lead into the the stress burnout equation?

I honestly think. Pivoting back to a full time in the office scenario impacts people’s stress and it is a condition in a workplace that can contribute to burnout and in some people, depending on a whole number of factors, but it definitely works. against wellness overall. It works against [00:39:00] wellness overall.

And I’m not a fan of 100 percent remote either. In a lot of cases, I think if a company’s declared 100 percent remote, that’s fine. People can self select into that. And I’ve seen great examples of that working well, but it’s I think a lot of times people do benefit from some overlap time and the two, three day split tends to be the best in terms of.

Most people’s personality and lifestyles can fit somewhere in the two, three day split. And then you have exceptions to that, such as the one day remote or the one day in the office sort of things, but the value proposition of having an office and stuff and utilizing it to come together two or three days seems to be What makes a lot of sense for a lot of factors when I know some of the globally or nationally [00:40:00] distributed remote first workplaces will use the like every quarter or something, or a couple times a quarter.

They’ll bring everyone together in 1 spot and have more of a collaboration and it can look like a lot of different things. It could be a. A planning day, a strategic day, or all kinds of different I’ve seen lots of different options for that, but it brings people physically into one spot, almost like mini conferences, once or twice a quarter, and people have said it works really well, and then the rest of the time, they’re just connecting remotely and yeah, so I’ve seen that and, a lot of the, The local companies wouldn’t necessarily have to go to that means, but borrowing some of those strategies can work, depending on again, how you set the expectations.

What’s the psychological or even written contract that we have with people? And how are we living into that and helping people? [00:41:00] Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done in leadership in general.

Addressing Toxic Leadership and Its Impact on Workplace Well-being

I would say when you think of some of the best leaders that you’ve ever worked for, they’re not that many, right?

There’s a lot more stories people have of difficult leaders than great ones, which is why I’m really driven to do this toxic leadership research to see the current state of toxic leadership post pandemic. And in this. And a lot of negative news in the media and all this going on I’m curious about how toxic leadership is playing out and my hypothesis is that it is a major contributor to mental health.

Yeah, I would support that hypothesis is that, that goes back to the old saying is people don’t leave a company, they leave their boss when we look at the number one cause [00:42:00] of stress in the workplace, it’s usually conflict With their leader second would probably be workloads these days, but I’ve seen lots of different stats on that.

So we look long, long term. Let’s say mid midterms. What about the next 1 to 3 years?

Looking Ahead: The Future of Work and Leadership

What do you see as the shift? You already said it’s not going away, but how do you think it’s going to evolve? I think there’s good, it’s going to be, there’s this pull to the way it was before, which is almost nostalgic, right?

I want it to be the way it was before, where work is a building that you go to. And, there’s going to be this. There’s going to be this resistance and a market conditions and then more people retiring from the oldest generation where we have a higher percentage of work is a place, right? They grew up with that.

They didn’t grow up with the technologies. Once the generation [00:43:00] Z or C gets in there more and more in leadership roles, I think that’s going to be a major turning point. But I think that the road is paved now for organizations are going to use this and they’re going to stake their claim in terms of I’m a flexible organization, or I’m an organization where work is a place.

And then people will self select in and out, or they’ll leave. Yeah, they’ll leave the organizations. That aren’t a fit and employers of choice, the ones who win the awards, like best employer in Canada and stuff, they’ll tend to be ones that embrace flexibility and are human centric in their approaches and more mature when it comes to talent, treating talent well and developing people and supporting people as human beings.

Yeah, it comes down to marketing, right? What’s who’s your target market? What’s your. What’s your company about? And I’ve [00:44:00] had conversations with senior leaders where I’ve said, Hey, it was like, if you want to run a sweatshop, like literally that’s okay, I might not agree with it, but if that’s what you envision, market the crap out of that.

There are going to be people that resonate with that. I’m going to pay you a lot of money, show up at work, shut up and go home. And when you burn out, I’ll hire someone else and pay them lots of money. That’s been the status quo in lots of industries for a lot of years. And there are people that will do that, but if that’s how you are operating, don’t say you’re a flexible workplace and you’ve got this great culture.

That’s the biggest thing you value employee, you value your people or you value well being or you’re like these sorts of words. You got to be really careful. If you don’t practice them, then don’t preach them because yeah, walls don’t hold [00:45:00] up values. Leaders do. And the leaders need to be living out these values and.

Yeah, and the CEO or the chair of the board of directors, they need to have the courage to understand, act on, and address toxic leadership from the top down. Yeah, and the problem is, if they’re the problem, Then they’re not gonna, no way. Exactly, and I think that I’m going to make up a stat here. 95 percent of toxic leaders think they’re good leaders, right?

Yeah, but yeah, it’s 70 percent of people think they’re above average. So yeah, exactly. Yeah. And okay. I definitely want to have you back on the show at some point. Next year we’ll meet and talk about the evolution of what’s happened and , we can talk about some of the new research that’s coming out.

Closing Remarks and Resources

Thank you so much Dr. Laura for being on the show. I, it is been a pleasure. And before we go, [00:46:00] any websites you want to promote? Where can people look you up? Sure. So Dr. Laura Live, that’s my website and the Where Work Meets Life podcast. I’m having a lot of fun doing it’s in its fourth season, and then I also run Canada career counseling, so it’s the biggest group of career psychologists in the country and people can use their insurance and benefits to see a psychologist to talk about career, workplace pivots they’re making in their lives.

Stress challenges they’re facing at work, and a lot of people aren’t aware that there’s this branch of psychology that’s very specialized in this arena, and a lot of people are suffering and struggling at work. And I’m really privileged that we can help people throughout the country to figure out their scenarios and make pivots where they need to.

Wonderful. Thank you so much. I’ll make sure those go up in the show notes. So people know where to find you. And thank you again, [00:47:00] look forward to seeing you for doing the great work you do to spread these messages, Tim and your podcast and you’re speaking and you’re consulting and coaching

that wraps up another episode of the working well podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please rate review and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Which guests or topics would you like to see featured on the show? Message me through LinkedIn or on the contact page of timboris. com. Thank you for tuning in.

I’m Tim Borys with FRESH! Group. And look forward to seeing you on the next episode.


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