7 Ways To Ensure Employee Well-being in a Remote Setting
Over the last couple of months, employees have gotten used to working remotely. As things stand, some employers have started calling some employees back to work whilst coming up with plans to thrive in the recovery phase. Others are sticking to their ongoing WFH policies. In fact, employers are hiring remotely and devising unique ways to manage remote workforce.
Hiring or recruiting during the pandemic is a welcome sign for both employers and jobseekers. More so for the former, as it is an indication of ‘’good’’ things to come; they can replenish their workforce with talent and take their business operations to pre-COVID levels or even higher.
But designing hiring and business recovery plans should not be the only agenda for employers. Most employees have been working remotely since March 2020. Given the situation, the 4-5 months of remote work might stretch by a couple of months or more — who knows?
The unnatural work setting, the risk of getting infected, people losing jobs, markets and economies on the verge of capsizing — amongst other distasteful occurrences brought about by the pandemic — can take a toll on anyone. Especially employees who have never experienced remote work for months on end. Feelings of loneliness, isolation and the lack of work-life balance culminating in burnouts might well be affecting them.
Whether you plan on calling back your employees or extending work-from-home, it’s important that you take stock of their wellbeing and find ways to improve it. By supporting your employees, not only can you ensure productivity, but also improve employee engagement and morale.
Let’s take a look at a few steps that you, the employer, can take to support your employees the right way.
How are they?
Just ask them, discreetly. You could make use of automated surveys and obtain great insights from employees who may feel a certain way about how things are going at work. You should know that not all employees are vocal when it comes to voicing opinions about work, especially those that have an effect on their wellbeing.
Apart from recording their feelings about work, you can — via the automated surveys — find out if your employees are happy about any decisions that have been taken to ensure business continuity. What’s more, you get a sense about all business aspects from such surveys and also open up a communication channel that captures employee recommendations and concerns.
Keep in mind that such surveys have to be frequent and short so that employee feedback relating to wellbeing can be quickly assessed, rectified, and implemented.
Set achievable goals
For an employer in a remote setting, being fully aware of the workload handled by employees can be impossible at times. You will not be in the knowhow if an employee or group of employees is experiencing tremendous amounts of stress as a result of working overtime on difficult tasks that have been assigned. Similarly, there might be other employees who are deprived of motivation for working on tasks that don’t have an end goal. Again, you might be completely oblivious to this situation as well.
Too much or too less can be bad for employee wellbeing. And that is why setting realistic goals must be the agenda. Discuss with your team members on what goals and targets must be set. You can boost employee morale and do away with the feeling of being under pressure by basing their goals on their past performances. As a rule of thumb, stay in the loop once the goals have been set, frequently checking up on the progress that has been made and any challenges that they’re facing so that goals can be altered.
Lead by example
Which means you should not depend on employees to completely depend on others for support and advice. As the employer or the manager of the remote team, make it a point to prioritize your wellbeing. And don’t keep mum about what you’re doing to ensure wellbeing — share it with your employees so that they do something about it.
One of the ways you can do this is by sharing your thought process and actions for wellbeing. For instance, you can tell them that unless absolutely necessary, you do not tend to any work matters that eat into your personal time. Or something about your exercise regimen after work hours during which you keep your phone away and do not respond to any emails.
At such times when it’s difficult to know when work invades your personal space and time, leading by example and asking your employees to take wellbeing matters into their own hands can bring out their leadership qualities and feelings of accountability.
One of the best parts of working in an office environment is that you can reach out to your employee directly and ask them if anything is bothering them at work or outside. In a remote setting, you have to put in an extra shift just to maintain the open and robust nature of the relationship that you share with your employee. They should feel that distant, virtual work has no bearing on the lucidity of the employee-employer relationship.
Skip conference calls and reach out to them directly over a phone call or via video conferencing. Check-in on them and how they’re doing once a week or every 15 days. It’s high time you connect now if you haven’t already. If you do, ask them if the frequency of dialogues is enough to cover everything that concerns their wellbeing.
There’s much you can take away from such one-on-ones with your employee. For instance, if they’re avoiding any particular topic, bringing up work woes, talking about ‘’feeling the pressure’’, you will know the problem areas and concerns which are affecting their wellbeing. Moreover, communication can also aid in setting realistic goals. Stress and burnouts can be the possible culprits behind targets not being achieved or a dip in the quality of work.
It’s extremely important that you practice free-flowing communication with your employees as it builds trust and ensures that they voice their concerns without any fear of being judged or singled out. It’s not unnecessary chit-chat, but a necessary employer-employee collaboration for the identification of problems and solutions.
Take a Break
Research and studies estimate that adults can concentrate for a maximum of 20 minutes. It is within this timeframe when people are most efficient or creative. Usually, a small break that lasts for a few minutes slips in before the next 20-minute bout — characterized by laser-focused concentration — commences.
The breathers reinvigorate employees with renewed energy who then go back to business without compromising quality or efficiency. A cup of coffee with a colleague or breaking for lunch are some instances of much-needed and necessary breaks in offices. However, a remote employee might easily forget about the breaks and work for hours on end, up to a point where stress creeps in and decimates personal wellbeing.
The induced stress can have adverse effects on the physical and mental wellbeing of an employee which ultimately has a negative impact on productivity. As the employer, your role should be encouraging employees to take breaks in between.
The employees taking time out must also find ways to let others know that they’re stepping away for sometime. They can let colleagues know, change their status on the messaging app, or mark their calendars.
Keeping ‘It’ Confidential
Problems aren’t limited to work. Everyone fights personal battles every day. The issue is that an employer would never know what the employee is going through. He or she might be the hardest worker around but might be failing to meet targets due to some personal problems. Most employees too don’t share their troubles or seek help from employers.
To ensure that workers do not go through stress as a result of work or otherwise, employers can offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme). An EAP maintains confidentiality and keeps the information being shared by the employee, and his/her identity under wraps. Moreover, this programme can be accessed by the employee at no extra cost. Such a programme is useful to remote employees who might feel that they cannot turn to anyone for help.
Through an EAP, the employer can provide assistance to employees with any personal or work problems that might be negatively affecting their physical or mental health or productivity. It goes even further to help employees with issues like child care, financial/legal issues and more.
Mind and Body
Remote workers skip the day-to-day commute. With no physical exertion of any kind except work, their physical and mental health can deteriorate. This can have an adverse effect on their performance, but more importantly, their overall wellbeing.
Employers should step in and start initiatives that prioritize the physical and mental health of employees, remote or not. They can offer discounted gym memberships to those interested, employer-sponsored health checks, access to online mental and physical health sessions and webinars by professionals, fitness webinars and seminars, Q&A sessions and so on.
While you might’ve offered health insurance, make it a point to start mental and physical wellbeing initiatives. It will send out a clear message that you’re fully invested in your employees’ health and wellbeing.
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