Now that remote work has been mainstream for a few years, its benefits are easily recognizable. It tends to make teams more productive, leads to higher job satisfaction and helps businesses overcome labor shortages. At the same time, its potential downsides are clearer than ever, too.
Attention to mental health in the workplace rose around the same time as remote work. Given this trend, it’s important to recognize management’s role in remote workers’ well-being.
“Working from home is inherently more independent, which can make some employees feel disconnected or unsure of what’s expected of them.”
One of the most important mental health steps for remote team managers to take is to communicate. Working from home is inherently more independent, which can make some employees feel disconnected or unsure of what’s expected of them. Thorough communication addresses these feelings.
Regularly check in with your remote staff to answer questions and discuss their current goals and struggles. Communication technology like video-conferencing software improves these discussions by offering face-to-face connections to boost empathy. Centralized project management platforms can help, too, as they make it easier to understand work expectations and requirements.
As helpful as regular communication is, you must also consider that 69% of remote employees feel increased burnout from digital communication. Using asynchronous collaboration software for most conversations and saving instant messaging or video calls for urgent matters can offset that burnout.
“71% of teleworking professionals say working from home helps them with their work-life balance and 56% say it makes it easier to meet deadlines.”
It’s also important to lean into what makes remote work desirable to team members in the first place. Flexibility is a common one — 71% of teleworking professionals say working from home helps them with their work-life balance and 56% say it makes it easier to meet deadlines.
Giving remote workers more flexibility will help them make the most of their already flexible work arrangements. This may look like letting employees set their own schedules or letting them practice more creativity in how they approach a project. When workers have this freedom, working independently or lacking specific guidelines is often more comfortable, preventing stress.
Remote work setups that look too much like a conventional office workflow may minimize the mental health benefits of working from home. Strict guidelines or scheduling policies can make remote work feel less relaxed and make it harder to log off when the day should be over.
Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance
On one hand, flexible work arrangements provide more freedom to balance work and personal life. However, on the other, they also make it easier to lean too far into the home side of things, leading to an unhealthy balance.
Encourage employees to practice healthier work habits. These include having a dedicated office space, following a semi-regular work schedule and silencing notifications while working. Dressing professionally can help, too, as experts say it sets the tone for the day.
Practicing these behaviors yourself will assist by setting an example for your team. You can also encourage them by providing a list of tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and bringing it up regularly.
Provide Mental Health Resources
Of course, no mental health program is complete without providing more formal health care resources. You should offer your remote employees access to things like therapy or meditation apps just as you would connect them with physical health insurance.
Offering these resources to remote teams requires a digital approach. Consider covering online therapy platform subscriptions or a cloud-based remote employee assistance program. You can also provide links to pages explaining common mental health challenges and solutions for remote workers.
Once you offer these resources, you must promote them. A shocking 85% of employees with mental health coverage from their workplace don’t use these programs. That gap comes mainly from not knowing they have this access and them being hard to use. Better communication and prioritizing accessibility will address that issue.
“No mental health program is complete without providing more formal health care resources.”
Run Team-Building Sessions
Finally, you should consider ways to foster team spirit among remote workers. Because working from home is so independent, they often feel isolated socially and professionally. Remote team-building is the answer.
Host group video conferences regularly to foster more camaraderie and remember to keep these meetings relatively casual. Running games, watch-alongs or other fun activities outside of work hours on these same platforms can help fight loneliness, too.
Remember — any non-work-related team-building activities must be optional. If you make them mandatory, they’ll feel less relaxed and may worsen engagement and well-being.
Remote Work Brings Unique Mental Health Challenges
Remote work didn’t create the issue of workplace mental health challenges, but it presents some unique obstacles. While these flexible setups can be highly beneficial, managers must remember to address the increased loneliness and stress that can come with them.
Thanks to digital technologies, you don’t have to sacrifice communication or inclusion for remote productivity. These five steps will help you support your staff’s well-being, regardless of their distance from the office.