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3 key sources of remote work stress and what companies can do to combat them 1

3 key sources of remote work stress and what companies can do to combat them

Remote working has certainly changed the way we work. There’s no going back. And there shouldn’t be. There is enough evidence that not only suggests that this is a way of work that increases an organization’s output, it’s what employees seem to want. And with the high rate of turnover that companies are experiencing, it might be in their best interest to keep employees happy and productive. According to this article, just prior to the pandemic, 3.5 million people were leaving their jobs monthly, which dropped to 1.9 million in April 2020. The number for December 2020 was 3.3 million, which shows there was a substantial return of voluntary turnover.

When it comes to remote working, there has been an upward trend in the number of organizations going remote. 62% of employed US adults work part or full time from the confines of their home. According to this study, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023. Given that 23% of those surveyed in a recent study would take a 10% pay cut to work from home permanently, the challenge for organizations now is how to make remote work efficient.

A new report found that 40% of employees  who practice remote working are experiencing high levels of stress, compared to 25% among those always working at the office. Additionally, burnout is at an all time high with more than or 69% of employees experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home, and this influx is impacting both business productivity as well as the overall health of the workforce.

Key causes of stress and what companies can do to minimize it.

1. The pressure to be ‘always on’

With how deeply technology has permeated throughout lives, blurring the line between the professional and personal aspects of employees, it becomes very hard to cut off. In the traditional office setting, despite its disadvantages, it did make room for employees to take time out through the day, and put work aside, mentally too. Coffee and lunch breaks, water-cooler chats and the like made it possible for employees to mentally switch off for a few minutes, so that they could come back to the desk feeling a little refreshed.

On average, employees have reported working three more hours per day since working remotely due to Covid-19.  That 15 additional hours per week! The physical differentiator previously was a separate home and office environment – but with home becoming the office for many, it’s hard to establish these boundaries.

Companies should invest time during the onboarding process or soon after to sensitize employees to the need for having clear work schedules. When managers are able to outline basic communication and collaboration processes, and how the day-to-day routine might look, it gives employees more clarity on how they can prepare for their work, and more importantly when and how they can switch off. Another key aspect for managers is to lead by example. Encourage employees to work at home, as they would in the office.

2. Feeling the lack of support

Remote working could get lonely. In a study conducted more than a decade before the pandemic (about remote work among journalists), they found that full-time telework increased loneliness over office work by 67%. Data from the 2020 State of Remote Work report issued by Buffer showed that loneliness is the biggest struggle remote workers say they face, tied with problems of collaboration and communication.

Given that employees were already in lockdown, many of them away from family and loved ones, the pandemic was an especially difficult time in terms of employees feeling connected and supported. It wasn’t so easy to just walk over to a coworkers desk and have a quick chat. People felt isolated.

Amp up communication in the workplace. This is the number one rule for remote working to be seamless and productive. Organizations need to not only communicate to employees about changes and plans that the organization itself has but to make this more personal. Managers need to break down the barriers of hierarchies, and put in the effort to build a rapport and meaningful relationship with each employee. Clearly outlining the channels of communication will also make it easier for an employee to take the initiative and engage in conversations. And it doesn’t always need to be about work. Bonding activities strengthen the connection between team members and go a long way in making employees feel supported and valued.

3. Personal distractions

Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, many employees practicing remote working are doing so from their homes. Many employees may have responsibilities like taking care of elderly parents, taking care of the children, many are single parents, many may be battling mental health issues. It’s close to impossible to having a mindset of “leave your personal baggage at the office door” anymore. It should never have been the case in the first place. Nevertheless, an employee may struggle to manage their home and work expectations, now that the line is blurred.

What organizations can do? Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to the workplace. Acknowledge that we are all humans with good days and bad, but that with a little guidance and support, we can work through issues together. Today, more companies are seeing the value in providing employees with mental health programs and initiatives. About 53% of 256 employers surveyed by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions reported providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce because of the pandemic. They are understanding that for an employee to function at their best, they need to be feeling their best.

For more information on how you can build and manage a truly global workforce, schedule a consultation with our team of experts right away.

Anushree Thammanna

Anushree Thammanna

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