Having seen businesses continue to succeed while their employees work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise that a number of companies plan to keep offering the option of remote working. In fact, according to a Gartner Inc survey, 82% of business leaders plan to allow their staff to work remotely some of the time.
This style of working is not without its problems though. From struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance to feeling lonely and isolated outside of the office, the negatives can have a considerable impact on an employee’s wellbeing. If remote working is to become the new normal, employers need to find ways in which they can properly support their staff who do so.
Here Sally Raith-Riches from The Foxhills Collection highlights how to support the wellbeing of your remote employees.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
A good work-life balance is necessary for employees to feel satisfied and content with both their professional and personal life. When working from home, it’s easy to slip into focussing more on work, because the normal office schedule can get abandoned. Without colleagues to prompt them to take a break or stop for the day, remote workers can end up logging on to work earlier, skipping lunch, and continuing well after their normal hours.
This can be damaging to an employee’s personal life because they have less time to invest in their interests, and their family and friends. Business-owners and senior staff should make a point of reminding remote employees that they are not expected to work over their normal hours, and to take appropriate breaks.
Remind staff of the importance of regular exercise
Another danger when working at home is that of becoming too sedentary. Remote workers often go from their bed, to their desk, to their sofa after work, without walking around or getting much exercise throughout the day. Regular exercise is a vital part of maintaining health and wellbeing, and can even help employees’ productivity at work.
Staff should be reminded to ensure they’re getting enough exercise, whether this is doing a quick online yoga video in the morning, taking a walk at lunch, or attending the gym or an exercise class in the evening. Ways to do this include simply informing staff of what’s on in the area, or setting up a fun competition like counting steps in a day.
Promote social interaction to combat loneliness
A common complaint among remote workers is the feeling of isolation. When you’re working alone at home and possibly rarely even talking with colleagues, this can lead you to feel considerably isolated – especially if other colleagues are together in the office. It’s important for business owners to support staff to try to avoid this state of mind.
The main way to do this is to stay in regular communication. Senior staff should frequently reach out to those working remotely both via phone call and with other methods such as an instant chat platform. Messenger software such as Microsoft Teams or Slack should also be used so that staff can hold informal conversations throughout the day with their colleagues. As well as simply chatting together, it’s also a good idea to arrange various social events. Depending on COVID-19 lockdown regulations, this could be anything from meeting at the pub after work to hosting a quiz or afternoon tea via online video call.
Motivate remote employees
When remote staff do feel isolated and neglected, this very often leads to disengagement. Disconnection from the office can cause a remote worker to question the value of themselves and their work to the company, which will likely end up causing them to put in less effort.
Employees who feel demotivated quickly start delivering subpar work, and may even end up seeking alternative employment. To stop this from happening, company-owners and managers need to make sure they work hard to maintain remote employee engagement. Ways to do this include staying in regular communication, making a point to say thank you and recognise a job well done, and finding ways to encourage their participation in projects and conversations.
Supporting the wellbeing of remote employees should be a priority for any business that is considering the continuation of this mode of working. During the coronavirus lockdown period, in many ways it’s been easier for staff to adjust to remote working because everyone has been in the same boat. When lockdown restrictions are eased, however, if only certain staff continue to work from home, these individuals are in more danger of the problems that come with remote working. Managers must be in tune to this, and ensure they stay on the lookout for such issues.