Working remotely offers many benefits such as more flexibility for staff and increased productivity when faced with fewer office distractions. But it can also take its toll on your staff when they’re stuck at home on their own all day. They are likely to start feeling lonely and isolated, and there’s a risk of burnout if they’re working longer hours. In this post, we’ve covered a few tips for taking staff health seriously while working remotely.
Remote employees often end up feeling like they need to be more productive and often end up working longer hours. It’s harder to switch off, and they feel like they have to be available at all times to prove how hard they’re working. Without the break of travelling to and from an office each day, it can be easy for work to seep into home life.
It’s important to emphasise to staff how important it is to switch off at the end of each day. You can allow a certain amount of flexibility around when they work (you might even allow asynchronous work via a remote management tool such as Remote, if you employ remote workers from overseas) but try to ensure they aren’t working more than they’re required to. Occasionally there’ll be tight deadlines that require some extra hours to be put in, but don’t let it happen every day and recognise the effort that your staff are putting in.
Prioritising a good work-life balance is an essential part of taking staff health seriously. Working longer hours doesn’t usually result in getting more done — your staff will lose motivation and focus as the day drags on. And if they’re regularly working extra hours, they’re likely to experience higher stress levels, which will also impact how well they can do their job.
Ensuring your remote team is properly set up with all the right tools, software and equipment, and are properly trained is an important part of supporting staff. It helps them to do their job effectively without unnecessary stress.
Without clear direction and proper processes in place, it’s easy for remote employees to feel unsure about what they’re supposed to be doing and whether they’re doing it right. It can be harder to ask for help or clarification when you’re not in an office. So ensure that you’re providing everything your staff need to stay organised and work efficiently.
This means everything from setting up cloud storage like Google Drive so that staff can share files and collaborate easily. You should also look at instant messaging tools like Slack, to make it quick and easy to have impromptu conversations that don’t require an email. And consider task management software — with task management software you can manage workloads, assign tasks, and set clear deadlines so that everyone understands what they need to be doing and when.
Regular training sessions that help staff to improve their work or learn new skills are also a good way to keep them engaged and motivated, which will help reduce any stress or dissatisfaction with their job.
When you’re not all in the same office it’s harder to tell if someone is unwell or struggling. Employees might also be reluctant to speak up if they need support. So it’s important to check in regularly with your staff to understand how they’re really doing.
There are two ways to approach check-ins, and a mixture of both is usually most effective. Informal meetings between individuals and their line manager or an HR representative are a good way to allow your staff to discuss any concerns. Anonymous surveys are also useful for getting an idea of issues that staff might not want to raise directly. You should consider a survey tool such as Survey Monkey to help you collect and monitor your staff feedback on a regular basis.
Remote employees are still going to get sick sometimes, but they might not feel like they can take time off because they’re already at home. Not taking time off when they need to can do further damage to their health, and they’re likely to be less engaged and productive. So make sure your staff feel like they can take a sick day when they need to, and support them when they are unwell.
They also might be less inclined to take annual leave, but it’s important to encourage them to do so. Working day-after-day with little vacation time is likely to lead to burnout, which is not going to be good for their health or their productivity. Be clear from the outset about your holiday booking policy — how many days of leave they’re entitled to, how far in advance to request time off, and so on — and if you notice they haven’t had a break in a while, encourage them to use some of their leave allowance.
While it’s harder to check up on staff health when they’re working remotely, it’s still important to support them and put in place procedures and tools that can ensure a healthy work-life balance, reduce stress levels, minimise isolation, and prevent burnout.