Even before the pandemic, remote work's popularity had been steadily increasing. Various studies have shown that a flexible work arrangement is favorable for both sides as employers see increased productivity and employees manage a better work-life balance. As the new normal pushes most of the world's workforce to telecommuting, another set of challenges are bound to arise in an otherwise perfect situation.
Working from home means being responsible for managing your time. It can be great if you have a set schedule to follow, but when you have the freedom to work as you wish, it is easy to get side-tracked by distractions. While this is not to say that remote workers get distracted by every little thing at home, it may be best to set reasonable expectations for the week.
Another pitfall of remote working, especially at home, is that the line between your work and personal life is blurred. It can be troublesome not to know when to detach from work after a long day. Overworking can be a real issue when there are no parameters in place like a virtual Bundy clock or a system to ensure that management is accurately tracking hours.
As for communication, technology has made online video conferences and meetings extremely easy to manage. Messaging apps can address communication gaps and cloud platforms for team collaborations that allow people to work on projects simultaneously. While all of these are great, the human aspects of impromptu lunches, group brainstorms, or break chitchats at the watercooler are some things that most office workers will miss.
For those who have only started remote working, the idea of a virtual workplace culture may be foreign. The loss of face-to-face interaction may be hard to fathom for those used to working with others in an office.
Employee burnout is an alarming phase, and its consequences can be catastrophic to the whole organization. According to a survey, over 65% of employees working from home since the pandemic started are experiencing burnout symptoms.
Although telecommuting offered the advantages of breaking from the daily commute and a rigid office structure, the combination of stress and financial anxiety may be a burden too significant to bear for some. Management support and mental health breaks are valuable in keeping employees from feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
Employee engagement is an essential part of the virtual company culture as it encourages everyone to be a part of the team. It is also a necessary part of remote team management to keep workers involved in the organization. Here are seven ways to keep remote employees healthy and happy.
1. Encourage the work-life balance mindset
Work-life balance is more than just a buzzword in corporate offices. Employers can do better than acknowledging the importance of work-life balance by encouraging it among remote workers. You can achieve this by providing options for flexible work hours or days. Having the freedom to choose the arrangement that fits them the most will show employees that you value them as people with lives and not just workers.
Additionally, set scheduled meetings in advance so employees can confirm their availability and prepare for the agenda. Managers and leaders should set the example of working only during work hours and by not sending work messages outside those times. While employees can choose to work anytime they want to, sticking to a routine can help establish structure and maintain healthy habits.
2. Provide structure
A solid organizational structure, which includes established policies, procedures, and scheduled meetings, helps in managing remote workers. These things help reinforce the consistency of the process when it comes to employee operations. Scheduled mandatory meetings can foster a sense of community, especially among those who may find social interactions scarce or difficult.
An informal structure that fosters personal connections between individuals is valuable among teams. A monitored space for discussing interests outside work helps create social ties. Getting individuals to talk with each other creates familiarity and contributes to employee satisfaction. In a remote work setup where a manager’s availability may not always be possible in real-time, getting feedback from peers allows workers to move forward with their tasks efficiently.
3. Provide accessible and easy-to-follow process documents
Keeping organized makes for smoother virtual workflows and increases productivity. It is crucial to provide employees with an accessible document or set of documents that detail workflow processes and include checklists to make tasks easier. Process mapping helps employees feel secure about their responsibilities and expectations.
4. Recognize contributions
Having a recognition culture in place is a great way to celebrate successes big and small. When everyone is treated with the same appreciation from management, it boosts workforce morale, especially for those unused to working from home. Communication platforms where employees share the same virtual space can be used as an avenue to share recognitions.
Beyond the shout-outs, employers may also choose to award financial incentives or gift cards. Consider other perks such as workspace upgrades and health benefits. Making the recognition visible will not only keep hardworking employees happy but empower others to do the same.
5. Have an open-door policy
An open-door policy means encouraging open communication and feedback between management and employees. Having accessible and approachable leaders promotes transparency and a positive virtual work environment. When leaders regularly listen to concerns, questions, and ideas, they make employees feel valued.
In a remote work setting where people have different schedules, leaders may feel the pressure to respond to every message around the clock. A simple way to enforce the open-door policy without placing the burden too much on leaders is to dedicate a regular schedule for this type of communication. Reassure workers that even though leaders will not respond right away outside of working hours, they will get back to them as soon as possible.
6. Hold remote work skills workshops
Investing in employee skill development is an excellent way to foster commitment and trust. Empowering your workforce to develop new and relevant skills will keep them motivated. A huge advantage of working remotely is that it is easy to create a dedicated virtual space where interested individuals can attend skills training and workshops.
There is a lot of content out there for skills-building but avoid an ad hoc approach as it will result in disjointed learning experiences. Employers should find the time and resources to design a training course that is useful in the workplace. Helping employees build skills will benefit them and the organization in the long run.
7. Support employee side projects
Some employees may have skill sets that may be valuable to other business projects outside of their work. As long as these side projects don’t interfere with their work and there’s no conflict of interest with your company, support their interests by letting them spend a portion of their time, energy, and effort on projects they are excited about.
Having the freedom and control to pursue side projects will motivate and raise worker productivity as they are allowed innovation and creativity. When they derive purpose and meaning from these projects, they feel more fulfilled and content, resulting in the willingness to be accountable in all their work. Happy employees are overall more trusting and bound to be more engaging with the leadership and their peers.