Remote work can be incredibly invigorating. Finding a quiet space all your own to do your job can boost your energy and concentration, while offering secondary benefits such as the end of long commutes and even the ability to cook your own lunch at home. But remote work comes with a downside too: Remote work and anxiety often go hand in hand.
There are many reasons why remote work can prove challenging for your mental health. The social isolation that many remote workers sometimes feel outside of a central office setting can lead to all kinds of mental and emotional health challenges.
As CEO of a remote work staffing company, I’ve seen these challenges up close many times, especially more recently. With COVID-19 forcing many companies toward remote work in the past few months, some people unaccustomed to working from home have dealt with loneliness and frustration as they struggle to adjust to a new reality.
I’m here to help. Here are some tips you can follow to get the most out of remote work, by keeping your employees happy and motivated, promoting workplace mental health even when that workplace is remote:
Build a company culture. Even in an office setting, building a company culture helps bond people together, a highly valuable tool for promoting workplace happiness, which in turn leads to greater productivity. Building a company culture becomes even more important in a remote setting, where employees may be scattered throughout a city, or even throughout a world.
One helpful way to build a company culture is to set up a company Slack account. Within that Slack account, set up individual channels (and encourage employees to do the same) so that people can share their interests, swap photos and recipes, or whatever else their hearts desire. The stronger a bond remote workers build with their colleagues, the more likely they will be to feel like everyone is working toward a common goal.
Enable transparent communication. There are few work environment anxieties worse than not knowing where you stand. An employee who wonders whether or not he’s doing a good job but gets minimal feedback from his bosses may feel on edge far too often…and an anxious employee is rarely a content and productive employee.
That’s why I encourage transparent, open, even brutally honest communication. As a manager, your job is to make sure that your message is conveyed clearly, so that your employees know exactly what’s expected of them, and also know how they’re doing. Keep in mind that this level of transparent communication should go both ways! At DistantJob, I encourage my employees to be extremely honest with me, even critical of me. As long as the criticism stays constructive, that’s a very healthy level of communication to have, on both ends.
Provide positive reinforcement. With no way to receive a pat on the back, a smile, or a thumbs up in person, remote workers may start to feel unappreciated after a while. With that in mind, build on your transparent communication and offer positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement can give remote workers a huge lift. It lets them know that they’re on the right track in their work, which will help them stay focused on the tasks ahead. But more than that, it will help them feel both connected to the company and valued by the company, even if they’re not actually working in company space.
Allow schedule flexibility. I’ll start with a caveat: Remote workers are not freelancers or part-time workers; they have the same responsibilities and duties as in-office workers, and should treat their remote jobs accordingly.
That said, working from home can create its own unique set of challenges. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many remote workers have had to deal with having young children in the house while they work. So if your company can function well with people working irregular hours (so long as the work gets done), it can be helpful to give your employees some schedule flexibility in their remote work. A remote employee management form can be a great tool to capture information on your employees working conditions from home so you can offer them the flexibility, tools or support they may need while working remotely.
Keep everyone’s data secure. In a physical office, workers may feel more protected from outside elements. In the case of data security, they have good reason to feel protected, since most offices will have strict data security measures to protect every computer on site. The problem is, once they leave the office environment, those same workers might feel that their data are at risk.
That’s why it’s important for bosses and managers to ensure that workers’ data remain secure, even (especially!) when they’re working remotely. Whether it’s paying for secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for all your remote employees, buying them all the most advanced security software, or having a dedicated and skilled IT worker available any time they need help, prioritizing remote workers’ data security will give them the peace of mind they need and deserve.
Sharon Koifman is the CEO of DistantJob, a Montreal-based company that provides remote worker staffing and best practices-based advisory services for companies seeking to improve and expand their remote work operations.