Laura Iñiguez, Content Manager at Hirebook
Laura is a content and social media strategist with deep experience in Employee Engagement, People Management, and Culture. She works with Hirebook to bring their innovative best practices to life through content, videos, and webinars seen by thousands around the globe.
Pub: February 25 2021
. Upd: October 17 2021
The corporate world is evolving, and companies are opting more and more to move towards a hybrid office and having employees work remotely for most of the time, if not all the time. Telecommuting has a lot of advantages, but not everything’s perfect, and sometimes working remotely can take a toll on employees’ mental health.
Some employees might love the idea of working from home or wherever they please, handling their own time and schedule, being able to focus on their job no matter the location… but not everyone is cut for remote work, some people have a really hard time finding work-life balance and concentrating when their environment is not exactly an office scenario and not having their teammates and managers around.
One of the biggest concerns about remote workers is mental health. We are so used to working in an office since the Industrial Revolution, that shifting over a WFH model hasn’t been as easy for some people as we would’ve hoped; this does not mean that there’s something wrong with them, every person is different and handles situations differently; but as managers it is our job to see for our employees’ wellbeing and review if someone’s struggling in any area.
There are 3 main areas where remote work can damage our employees’ mental health:
Telecommuters don’t experience the camaraderie that develops in the office. They’re most of the time alone, even if they work from home and may have other family members with them, it’s not the same. The lack of physical connection and having no one to turn to when they’re feeling stressed or when they’re feeling too anxious to work can lead to work depression.
Employees often bond over their stressful situations at work and being able to receive help pretty much immediately by just tapping someone on the shoulder or a quick visit to their manager’s office, but working remotely takes that away from them and they usually think twice before “bothering” someone and asking for help.
Also, bonding over lunch or events happening on site is something remote workers miss out on and it’s hard to feel part of the team when you don’t actually interact with them.
When adapting to a WFH work model some people can experience an increase in their workload. Just setting up an office space and making sure they have everything they need like a good internet connection and office supplies takes time, time spent focusing on doing something for their job and that they’re probably not doing during their work shift, they’re using their time off to set everything up.
When working from home, some people find it hard to draw the line between work and life, because their home has now become their office, and this usually leads to working extra hours and, eventually, burn out. It’s not easy to feel like your office and work are part of your household, where you’re supposed to relax and do things for yourself. Somehow the relaxation part fades a little and part of their work stress is always with them.
When working remotely, somehow your day is filled with meetings and calls, because catching up is not as easy as doing it on site. In an office, a simple walk down the hall can be enough to give an important message and pass it on to the team, but when the team is not physically together, communicating anything turns into a bunch of emails and conference calls.
This happens because maybe you think one message on Slack and expecting a response from that person is enough, but what if that person is busy and taking a lot of time to answer? You message someone else, and somehow your simple question ends up being answered in a conference call to tie everyone together… Simply because working remotely means attending matters with someone else is harder than doing so on site.
Having a lot of virtual meetings can be exceptionally tiring, and they take a lot of time, time that employees could’ve spent doing their tasks… so after a lot of meetings, employees have very little time to finish their tasks, which leads to more stress and burn out, which could lead to work depression as well.
Take a look at our article “Why do I Hate Working from Home?” to have an employee’s point of view on the matter.
So, what can employers do to help with their employees mental health?
Check-In with Them
With remote employees it’s hard to see how well or bad they’re doing regarding their mental and emotional health, you can see their professional progress but not quite how they’re feeling. Remote workers also tend to not share if they’re feeling stressed because they also feel guilty of feeling that way when they “have the opportunity of being at home”.
Checking in with your employees is a must activity, ask them how they’re feeling, if they need some help with something. Since we’ve mentioned that having a lot of meetings can be tiring, checking in doesn’t mean having another meeting, save that for your one-on-ones, but you can take advantage of Hirebook’s Check-Ins feature to customize the questions you want to ask your employees, have them fill their form as frequently as you want to, and keep a close eye on their wellbeing.
Invest on Wellbeing
As a company, you probably provide benefits including medical insurance. Take it one step further and provide them with the chance of obtaining counseling or therapy sessions. Make sure you train your managers or team leaders to be able to coach their employees and notice when they’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Just think that your employees won’t do their best if they’re not feeling at their best. Investing in their wellbeing pays off, you’ll experience less turnover and achieve better employee engagement.
This investment would not just decrease turnover but keep you on top of your competitors.
Aside from that, just having happy employees will give you in return great productivity.
As you now know, remote workers tend to work longer hours, and employees working from home have other personal matters to address from their homes as well… Even when working remotely usually comes with a more flexible schedule, do remote employees really have that much flexibility? Most of them work their usual office hours plus at least a couple of extra ones.
Give your remote workers the reassurance that they can take advantage of the flexibility on their schedule that comes with working remotely. If they have an important thing to do, or some place to be, a doctor’s appointment, picking up their child or any other errand outside of “office hours”, make it clear that they can do so. Nowadays the corporate world is embracing more of a results oriented approach, instead of just complying with a certain shift. As long as they make their deadlines and are doing a good job, let them take advantage of the flexibility of working remotely.
Mental health is not a taboo subject anymore and is something we should never overlook. Think that it’s better to deal with "mild" work depression and anxiety before they become an actual serious problem. Mental Health and Work are correlated, so employers need to have accountability on the matter and look after their employees’ wellbeing.
Photo credit - karlyukav