Without a strong company culture in place, remote workers can easily feel isolated. Add in the pressures of COVID — the constant Zoom meetings, noisy households as kids go to virtual school, and the general stress of living through a global pandemic — and it’s not exactly an optimal environment for living your #BestLife.
Especially as colder weather, shorter days, and flu season approach, it’s more important than ever that employers take steps to help their newly remote workers stay in good mental health. Census Bureau data from May showed the pandemic is also a mental health crisis. A third of Americans were suffering from severe anxiety just a few months into what is proving to be a long road back to normal, and nearly 25 percent were feeling symptoms of depression.
At Centric Consulting, we have been office-optional for two decades. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about how to provide the right framework to help employees form thriving self-care routines when working from home. We’ve found the following to be vital in helping long-term remote employees remain happy, healthy, and therefore, productive:
1. Communicate Flexibility to Employees, Don’t Just Imply It
Remote work usually comes with more flexibility than working in the office all day. It’s essential to explicitly communicate to employees your expectations for how they work remotely. Let them know they aren’t expected to be chained to their desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that they shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time out during traditional work hours to help a kid with virtual schoolwork, coach their child’s soccer team, take a walk around the block, or engage in any other activity that refreshes them.
When you empower employees to manage their own time (of course, they’ll still be expected to show up for meetings and get work done), they’ll feel more in control of their days. That, in turn, contributes to their mental well-being and makes them less susceptible to burnout and stress.
Plus, there are real benefits to be found in taking a breather or two throughout the day: Research shows that workers who take breaks get a boost in creativity and productivity and maintain higher motivation.
2. Set a Good Example for Creating Work Boundaries
Staying connected 24/7 isn’t only unnecessary — it’s also bad for your mental health. Yet remote workers are at risk for burnout because they don’t have the traditional physical boundaries between the office and home.
Company leaders should encourage employees to create work/life balance by modeling it themselves. Smart disengaging tactics can include silencing chat apps after a certain hour and only responding to work emails and calls that come through on nights and weekends when they’re actual emergencies. When employees see company leaders disengage, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same….