Remote Work in Times of Crisis: 3 Threats to Employee Engagement

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Did you know that the number of remote workers has grown by 140% since 2005? That’s what data from Global Workplace Analytics indicate. Now consider this: 80% of employees reported they’d be more loyal if they had more flexible work options, such as working from home. These numbers prove my point: Remote work has tremendous value for both employees and organizations—and it’s here to stay.

But for all its rose-colored benefits, remote work has some pitfalls that can take a toll on employee satisfaction, productivity, collaboration, and engagement. This is especially true amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

Many businesses find themselves in a unique situation. Large workforces, who have traditionally worked full time at physical offices, have now been mandated by HR to work remotely for extended periods of time (some for 2 weeks and others for at least 1 month, possibly longer)—and rightfully so, in my opinion. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

This is an opportunity for HR teams to inform, communicate, and nurture their newly remote workers through this new landscape and give them the resources and tools to be as productive, engaged, and collaborative as possible.

Threat #1

Social isolation can breed loneliness. And loneliness can spur disengagement.

Employees crave human contact and interactions. One of the great benefits of going into an office every day is the relationships with colleagues. Office workers sit together for lunch (or go out to restaurants together); they share personal stories about their social experiences, families, and friends; they tell each other jokes; and they even share photos and videos from holidays, social outings, and more.

But when regular and meaningful human interactions are suddenly taken away, it can be hard for employees.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, among other business executives around the world, has been asking employees to embrace the practice of “social distancing” right now for the sake of keeping employees safe and healthy.

But that’s inevitably going to lead to feelings of loneliness. This is supported by the findings of Buffer’s 2019 State of Work report, which found that 19% of the surveyed remote workers struggled with loneliness. This can, in turn, take a toll on employees’ mental health and well-being.

Now consider this: According to a meta-analysis coauthored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.

How to tackle it: 

  • Take several breaks throughout the day so you can be refreshed and re-energized to do great work.
  • Keep the camera turned on when using video conferencing tools.
  • Disconnect (both mentally and digitally) when the workday has ended. That means enabling the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your mobile devices and apps you regularly use like Slack.
  • Don’t be afraid to set up online one-on-one meetings with colleagues just to catch up (without a specific business purpose).
  • Get more personal during one-on-one meetings with teammates. Instead of jumping straight into work-speak, make a concerted effort to spend the first 10 minutes just catching up personally and talking about current events. Read more here…

Source: HR Daily Advisor