Remote working can bring many wellbeing benefits to the lives of people. They get to skip the time-consuming and stressful daily commute; they save costs by working from home and have the advantage of ample flexibility with their schedules.
But remote working can also have negative consequences. Workers often slump into isolation and loneliness due to losing the connection with others from the office environment. This emotional downslide is especially true of extroverted personalities as they often gained their momentum from the people around them. Unfortunately, these feelings of loneliness and separation can increase stress and bring about a sense of disconnection with work.
When working remotely, people tend to become boundaryless. Work tends to seep into their personal time easily. In truth, remote working often ends in the reality of putting in long hours. These workers often feel they must contribute over and beyond because they are at home. Subsequently, they often struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance leading to burnout if allowed to continue without proper or adequate intervention.
No matter where a worker is based, it’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure their workers’ wellbeing.
Healthy staff are happy staff. They are motivated and engaged in their work. This satisfaction reflects in in decreased sick days and increased productivity. You may need to take different measures to support your team in the most appropriate way with remote working.
When your staff are in the office and around you daily, it’s easier to be conscious of behaviours or habits that may be affecting their wellbeing. If your team are remote, this is a far more difficult task, but not impossible.
Establish work boundaries
Commuting to and from work is a tangible break that signifies the beginning and end of the day. Without this happening, it can be challenging to split work and personal time. Also, the proximity and constant presence of technology mean that work is always present. Remote workers – particularly in the beginning – can often feel a sense of needing to prove that they are doing the job and not slacking off. This behaviour can often lead to them working outside of their designated hours, responding to every request sent through immediately.
Remote workers need to be supported to establish clear boundaries between their work and personal lives. As a manager, you need to communicate that you trust they are doing their job appropriately. You will need to explicitly give them permission to end their workday and take time to recharge themselves.
If you recognise that your remote worker responds to emails and requests outside of hours, you should talk with them. This behaviour could indicate they are not putting in good boundaries to protect their personal time and suffering from excessive stress levels that will impact their work and home life.
Set Up Regular Communication
A crucial advantage of working in an office is having access to the right people if there is a challenging issue to be tackled. When employees work remotely, they don’t feel they have the same support. As team leader, you must double down to maintain robust employer-employee relationships. When these problems arise, your staff need to feel comfortable approaching you for assistance.
Suppose you don’t already have one-to-one meetings with your staff. In that case, it’s an excellent idea to determine if these need to be implemented. Don’t just go through the motions of ticking off jobs completed. Listen to what is being said. Are they optimistic about the work they are doing? Do they mention anything about extra stress or anxieties? These can be the clues as to whether their emotional wellbeing is affected by working remotely.
These one-to-ones will help build trust over time, so your team members will feel more relaxed and assured to speak openly with you. This will eventually foster a relationship where you can work with them to come up with solutions to reduce their stress load.
Lead by Example
It is very easy to become accustomed to unhealthy ways of living and working when you have others around you performing the same way. As a manager to remote employees, you must lead by example and make wellbeing your primary concern or priority. This way, your team members are less likely to feel guilty when faced with the same challenges.
How do you show this to your team – don’t check your emails or send out work in the evenings or over the weekend. Take your full lunch break and be uncontactable during that time. Clock off at the end of your workday and make your way to the gym.
This allows your employees to follow your lead and have undisturbed personal time. This will benefit the team as all members will return to work (whether at home or in the office) rejuvenated and refreshed.
Remind Them to Take Breaks
When you are in an office, there are always opportunities for people to take short breaks away from their work. But when you are at home, it is effortless to sit for a solid 8 hours and work without a break.
Working for long periods without a rest precedes increased stress levels, decreased concentration and productivity and takes a toll on physical health.
Encourage your remote team members to take time for themselves throughout the day. This can be done by introducing a reminder system to let people know when it’s happening. The notification should be personalised for your team and easy to recognise, so the team member isn’t contacted. Get your team members to change their instant messenger status or send out a notification via email to let everyone know they are unavailable. After these breaks, employees should come back feeling energised and prepared to tackle their tasks.
Set Achievable Goals
When your team members are remote working, it can hard to monitor their workloads. There is a potential for them to work harder and lengthier hours to keep up with challenging targets they have been assigned. This situation inevitably induces more stress. Conversely, suppose your remote worker doesn’t have any targets to work towards. In that case, they’ll become demotivated and become disengaged with the team and work they are doing.
Work with your remote team to set realistic and attainable goals. These goals shouldn’t put any undue pressure on them by not having access to the necessary support and materials. Keep checking in to see how they are progressing so you can modify any goals to safeguard their wellbeing.
Encourage Fitness and Wellbeing Activities
With the daily commute being taken out, remote workers have less time and opportunities to stay active. The reduction in moving their body has a massive impact on physical and mental wellbeing.
Encourage your employees to take time out to keep their body moving and mind healthy. Some organisations will have the resources to offer staff access to free or heavily discounted online fitness classes, wellbeing sessions or gym memberships. By providing these free or discounted rates, you make them accessible to everyone, no matter what financial situation they are experiencing.
Offer Mental Health Days
These are also called duvet days and are needed by everyone occasionally. Remote workers often succumb to troughs of feeling low, but they aren’t technically sick.
This is when offering a few mental health days over the year can take the pressure off the employee, and they can take time out – guilt-free – for a much-needed break. This allows them to relax and rejuvenate and come back to work the next day feeling motivated.
Check the Emotional Temperature of Your Employees
Most employees are reluctant to say if they feel that their work is negatively impacting them. Using confidential surveys can be a great way to check-in and find out what they are thinking. This can help you identify potential problems affecting their wellbeing and execute resolutions quickly and effectively.
Healthy staff are happy staff. When you work proactively to protect their wellbeing, they will repay the organisation with increased productivity, innovation, and retention of staff motivated to work.
Learn more about managing remote teams in the following article: How to lead remote teams