With widespread remote work still new, there is minimal data to indicate whether workplace stress is more significant for remote workers compared to those working in a regular workplace. What is known is that workplace stress manifests itself in many forms. Unfortunately, stress and anxiety issues can be more difficult to recognize in remote workers.
Managers and employees both encounter new hurdles when working remotely, including the initial challenge of creating and optimizing their remote workspace. Leaders need to adapt and use new ways to communicate to foster and sustain employee engagement as well as to support their employees’ mental wellness needs. When working in an office environment, there are often clear signs when employees are experiencing stress. This can be displayed by increased emotional reactions to situations or insufficient motivation and lackluster performance.
It is essential that business leaders move quickly to acknowledge and deal with the challenges of stress when they see it impacting their employees. Leaders who reach out to remote workers displaying distress signals by offering support can make a significant impact on their future wellness state. Remote workers tend to respond positively to a real show of empathy, such as a caring ear to listen to their anxieties and concerns. They appreciate small gestures like a 1:1 call or a personalized email - something to let them know that someone cares enough about them to reach out.
The epidemic has created a lot of change and uncertainty in everyone’s day-to-day lives. These are neither normal times nor normal working conditions. Employees typically do not perform as well when they are in highly-stressed states as they do when in a more relaxed frame of mind. Stress often manifests itself in sloppy, inaccurate or late work, clues that remote workers are exhibiting signs of burnout.
Employees are a company’s most important asset to help ensure ongoing business productivity and success. To this end, business leaders need to demystify situations that can cause uncertainty for employees by putting everyone’s mind at ease. This can readily be done by sharing information, answering questions as well as providing hope for the future.
Effectively Managing Remote Workers
Leaders must do their due diligence to maximize the wellness of their remote workers. One critical piece is to ensure clear, transparent, ongoing communication. The following are a number of things leaders can incorporate into their communication practices:
Describe how and why decisions were made related to business practices, issues, etc.
Provide timely information rather than waiting until you have all of the answers.
Be transparent in communicating near-term challenges.
Use the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to reinforce corporate values.
Look at communication from the perspective of your employees.
Communicate with thought and empathy.
Working remotely offers great flexibility. Some studies suggest that it can create a better work-life balance. On the other hand, this is not a panacea for all. Some employees working from home have difficulty separating the boundaries between home life and work life. It can be stressful not knowing when and how to ‘switch off ‘which can lead to work-related and/or home problems. The UN maintains that this is one of the many negative impacts of remote working.
There is still much to learn about working remotely and the effect it will continue to have on both businesses and people. Companies operating remotely need to continuously think about how they can ensure that employees are not being overworked or feeling stressed.
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