As we discussed in our previous post, 6 Tips for Bridging the Gap Between Remote Employees, there are many benefits to letting your employees work remotely, such as helping them achieve work-life balance. However, working remotely may not be the right fit for every business and every employee.
Studies show that in some cases working remotely can create challenges that impede the worker’s progress or even their health. If you're managing a team of remote workers, it's in the best interest of your organization that they are as well-managed and supported as the employees in your office. Here are the challenges that remote workers face and three ways to ensure their well-being.
The momentous shifts in the way people work have generated a lot of new research on the health effects of remote jobs and self-employment. Working away from colleagues may provide freedom from the traditional 9-to-5 working hours, but many remote employees can suffer in that isolation. Research from Cornell University finds that remote workers are at a greater risk for feeling personally and professionally isolated than their in-office colleagues. Social isolation has been associated with significant health concerns including cardiovascular and other systemic problems that can lead to increased incidents of stress-related sick leaves.
Managers of remote workers have an obligation to ensure that their staffers don't suffer because of that status, according to the IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health). Their study indicated that employers have as much of an obligation to ensure the safety of their remote worker's environment as they do with their in-house staff.
Furthermore, it is not enough to simply "roll out" into the remote arena the same activities or processes that you use in-house. Instead, direct line managers ought to develop and maintain equally close connections with their remote employees as they would with workers sitting in the next room.
Protecting the health and well-being of remote workers
Many managers who successfully deploy a remote team of employees have adopted practices designed to alleviate these challenges:
- Maintain contact
Today's technologies provides many channels through which to connect with your remote employees, from Messenger and email to WhatsApp, which is the choice for many international organizations with employees abroad. These regular communications provide the opportunity to check in on both the work and the well-being of your employees.
Additionally, if the company has an office location, encourage your remote employees to stop by for a visit every now and again to connect with your team and coworkers face-to-face, or better yet schedule a standing meeting in-office to touch base in person. Even if it’s only a few times a year, visiting the company office can prove to be helpful in bolstering their engagement with the company and its culture.
- Encourage flexibility
Many employees enjoy the benefits of working remotely, but sometimes find it hard to maintain work-life balance. It’s important for managers to observe the behavior of their remote workers and encourage them to stick to a "normal" business routine and also to relax and socialize with their community.
Your support of their healthier lifestyle releases them from an inappropriate focus on work alone. You may also consider paying for a "co-working" space, so they can still work alongside others, if not with them.
- Recognize Frequently
Remember to reward and recognize remote employees. Employees can see what values and behaviors are celebrated in an organization and can seek to emulate those behaviors. Additionally, features like activity streams along with programs designed to unite teams and departments can help remote employees feel more connected to one another and the company at large.
Your remote employees provide invaluable service to your organization. Keep them healthy and happy by providing services, recognition and rewards they appreciate.