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Quick Thought – Your Employees Are Individuals not Statistics

Have you read an article or listened to a podcast recently about remote work and been told that “some form of hybrid is the right solution?” Have you wondered why people feel so confident in saying that? It seems mostly to be based on studies and surveys that say that is what most people seem to want to do.

But is it true for your employees?

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my Child Abuse Survivor Blog about mental health studies titled You Are An Individual, not a Study. The target of that post was the mental health “advice” that is out there about how most people see improvements in their mental health when they get more exercise or change their diet, etc.

I’m going to do a study. I’m going to take 100 people who have been diagnosed with depression and I’m going to give 50 of them a red ball to play with. I’m then going to measure their depression symptoms after they have played with the red ball and compare them to the 50 people who didn’t play with a red ball.

Of the 50 with the red ball:

  • 25 showed no change
  • 10 got worse
  • 15 showed improvement

For the other 50 without the red ball:

  • 30 showed no change
  • 10 got worse
  • 10 showed some improvement

Now what happens is that the study is now reported to show that playing with a red ball seems to help with depression. We get very excited by this, and we go out and we buy a red ball, and we play with it every day for weeks. And nothing changes. Because playing with a red ball only actually seemed to help 5 out of 100 people in the study. We can and should, also break down the results of this study this way:

Out of 100 people in the study:

  • 55 showed no change
  • 20 got worse
  • 25 showed improvement, but 10 of those did nothing, and 15 played with a red ball.

Apply the same logic to the preference of where to work. If a survey says 51% of people think hybrid is a good idea, then it is true that hybrid is the option that would be preferable to most people. Are your employees in that 51% or the other 49%? How about you talk to them instead of relying on some study that tells you what most employees want? Your team might not be “most” people. They each have individual values and priorities. Do you know what they are?

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