5 ways to support employee wellbeing remotely

John McNamara
Published on 5th May 2020
4 min read

In the last few weeks, you’ve probably grown more adept at remote working than you ever thought possible. However, it’s likely you’ve noticed that some employees will be struggling in their own ways.

Here’s how to support your remote workers, wherever they are.

It’s time to focus on remote employees’ wellbeing

Working remotely has many perks. It offers employees greater freedom, helps them to simplify their lives, stay closer to friends and family, and can even help them to feel more inspired.

However, a lack of fixed routine can leave some employees feeling lost and forgotten. The reduction of social contact with colleagues can cause them to experience loneliness and without access to the office environment, they may find it harder to find the support they need.

Furthermore, many employees may also be managing childcare at home fulltime alongside working, care duties, or home schooling. For younger employees in house shares, they may struggle to find the physical space to work effectively and productively.

Prioritizing your employees’ wellbeing is vital. Research has consistently proven a strong correlation between employee wellbeing and productivity, as well as improved employee retention and even customer loyalty.

While employee wellbeing should always be high up on HR’s agenda, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic it’s more important than ever to ensure your employees are feeling supported while working from home.  Here are five things you can do to make them feel supported.

1. Put wellbeing at the top of the HR agenda

If your employees start to feel demotivated, stressed or anxious, it can be hard for them to reach out for support. By taking a proactive approach and putting their mental wellbeing front and center, you can encourage them to speak up when they’re not feeling their best.

This can be as simple as gently nudging your employees to get in touch if they are experiencing mental health issues and offering personalized support to those staff.

Additionally, you can signpost your employees towards useful resources. Mind, a mental health charity provides resources and training courses for managers and employees. Their partner organization, Mental Health at Work, even provides a free-to-access coronavirus toolkit for businesses that includes lots of helpful articles and other resources.

2. Allow flexible working

You might think: aren’t remote workers already working flexibly?

There’s a difference between working from home and working flexibly. Fully flexible working means having complete control over when and how you work.

Your employees may find that whilst working from home they would like to space their working hours out, compress them into fewer days or work irregular patterns in order to free up time in other parts of the day or week. This can also support employees managing childcare and other care responsibilities at home also.

Changing schedules can help your employees to maximize their own time for mental wellbeing. Even if they only choose to work flexibly in the short-term, having extra windows of non-working time could help them to take care of matters in their personal lives that will help them to feel less stressed and more focused during working hours.

Offering your people this flexibility shouldn’t impact on your business’s schedule and may even help employees to reach deadlines more efficiently.

3. Promote switching off

Remote employees may feel like they live at the office rather than work from home, so it’s vital that they switch off to deter from stress and ultimately, burnout.

We’re notoriously not good at it, however. Nearly a third of remote employees say that they can’t switch off in their personal time and two-fifths say they check their work phone or emails at least five times a day outside of their working hours. 

While controversial, you could impose an email and call embargo between set hours. However, this option may not be quite so easy for international organizations or employees in senior positions.

You could also seek out managers who are great at switching off and offer up tips to the wider team.

Whatever you do, it’s important to not only communicate the importance of colleagues switching off, but practice this across your team and organization too. If senior managers lead from the top, then it will be easier for employees to reflect this approach too.

4. Encourage conversation

Loneliness and social isolation are the second biggest challenge faced by employees working from home after “unplugging”.

Therefore, it’s important to help staff feel as connected as possible during their working days.

To do this, make sure employees have access to the latest videoconferencing software and encourage them to use it as much as possible. Video conferences can often prove more efficient than emails and will help employees to enjoy moments of feeling connected when appropriate.

However, be mindful that conference video fatigue can become an issue for remote workers. So, encourage employees to connect via video only when it really matters so employees don’t feel burned out by long or many video calls each day.

Face-to-face interaction is especially important because it allows the parties in a conversation to pick up on signals that may otherwise be missed in an email. Tone of voice, eye contact and body language are easy to underestimate, but can contribute greatly to understanding and good communication.

Encourage line managers to check in with their direct reports more frequently too, so that every employee feels supported and has opportunities to ask questions and discuss any concerns.

5. Host company socials online

Regular social interactions can improve happiness, health, engagement and loyalty, and even reduce stress, according to Forbes. However, it can be hard to fit social interactions in during the day, so a fantastic way to bookend the working week is to host work socials online.

This can include coffee break style catch-ups, planned ‘water cooler’ chats or just general check-in calls and afternoon socials.

These occasions allow staff to catch up with managers and other colleagues, to interact in a casual setting and to feel more at home – even while they are isolated from their fellow employees.

To make employees feel even more involved, you can think of fun ways to bring these sessions to life. Why not try a quiz or ask staff working from home to come up with wacky costumes? This can be a great way to bring your company culture to life even while employees are away from the workplace.

Support your people in the right way

With remote workers, a lack of employee wellbeing might not be so easy to spot. However, it’s no less important.

Getting workforce wellbeing in a good place could prevent stress from escalating into much more serious mental health issues, helping your workers to be happier and healthier in the future.

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