Help Your Telecommuting Workforce Cope With Remote Work Anxiety
The events of the last year or so have demonstrated that remote operations are practical for many types of business. The flexibility can also improve employee satisfaction, which in turn may translate to retention. Not to mention that you can reduce overhead costs. However, it’s not all plain sailing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been some distinct shifts in the state of our population’s mental health. Doctors have specifically noted the sense of isolation, loneliness, and stress has created a widespread tendency to experience symptoms of anxiety. Indeed, this can be worsened by many of the common aspects of remote working. Not the least of which is being separated from other people and burning out due to overwork. Workers can take steps like slowing down and articulating boundaries. But it is also your ethical duty as an employer to help your telecommuting workforce cope with anxiety.
Let’s take a look at some of the effective practices you can employ.
Build Support Structures
Part of the cause of employees’ remote work anxiety can be loneliness. This can result in heightened feelings of being overwhelmed by tasks and situations the worker would otherwise be fully capable of performing. One of the ways you can best assist your remote workers here is by helping them feel less abandoned by the company. Create structures of support your employees can rely on.
This should begin with formalizing communications protocols. Your workers don’t need you to micromanage them. But some reliable forms of contact can help reduce the anxiety of feeling isolated. Create a weekly timetable for checking in and seeking updates. This isn’t just an opportunity for your employees to recognize there is a structure to their working week. Your feedback during these calls can help give them the confidence they are effective in their work duties. Provide them with simple methods to get in contact with you if they have any concerns. Make sure you respond to these swiftly so they can see they have a solid level of support from you.
Part of your support structure needs to include making certain your team has all the resources they need. A source of remote work anxiety can be the sense they aren’t well equipped to be as productive as they think they should be. They are also likely to be hesitant about asking for resources as this makes them feel they’re being too demanding. So, you should make the first move here. Take regular opportunities to discuss the resources you can provide with each worker.
Encourage Care Routines
Often some of the solutions to remote work anxiety come down to putting some focus on self-care routines to manage workplace stress. This may seem simple enough. However, when your workers are experiencing a certain level of anxiety it can be difficult to recognize the care actions that can help. They may even resist permitting themselves to utilize them. You can be a source of support by encouraging their implementation of care routines.
Your first focus is to make certain they don’t overwork. There is an unhealthy view in our society that employees who keep working late into the night or through their lunch breaks are demonstrating positive commitment. Studies have shown working longer hours can make employees less productive. It is also a recipe for declining health and mental wellbeing. This can be exacerbated for those experiencing anxiety when they already have concerns they’re not being productive enough. Check-in frequently to make certain workers are actually taking their allotted breaks throughout the day. Encourage them to take a walk outside or do some exercise rather than just eat at their desk. Importantly, set company protocols to ensure workers finish at the same time each day.
As well as efforts to take breaks, it can be wise to encourage them to put regular workday routines in place. When experiencing anxiety, the lack of familiar work surroundings can serve to enhance symptoms. This can be particularly the case where employees wind up working in their pajamas or sweatpants, which can lead to a low sense of self-worth. Talk to them about how even the way they dress can have a positive impact on their mental wellbeing and self-confidence. Fashion is not a superficial consideration; it can help your workers to express themselves and improve their body positivity. Taking these small steps also gives them a sense of separation between their work and home life. This is important when being surrounded by the trappings of their work at home is a source of anxiety.
When employees are experiencing anxiety, it can be easy to treat them with kid gloves. You may think it wise to give them space to find their own solutions. You might offer them some additional time off. While these can help to a limited extent, you don’t want to run the risk of them feeling alienated from the company. This can impact their mental wellbeing as well as their productivity. Instead, find ways to more actively engage them.
Try not to single them out for engagement protocols as they may feel as though they’re being targeted for special treatment. Instead, start with some more generalized engagement efforts that can help the whole team to be more productive. Employee engagement is already challenging in remote settings. Taking simple steps to enhance their autonomy, collaborations, and communication can help everyone become more meaningfully engaged in the business. It can be particularly important to emphasize the team elements by finding projects for them to work together on and making certain you regularly praise each member’s contribution.
Even as we start to move beyond COVID-19, remote operations are likely to remain a part of the employment landscape. Anxiety can be a prevalent issue here, impacting employee wellbeing as well as company productivity. You, therefore, need to make concerted efforts to mitigate this by building supportive structures and encouraging self-care routines. Keeping workers engaged with their work and the team can also be a vital tool in helping them feel more positive about their position. Mental health is rarely an easy issue to address, but it is your ethical duty as a business leader to do what you can to help.