The working world is changing so rapidly, we are hardly able to keep up. Adapting to the every-changing workplace is a modern challenge we are all facing, and whilst technology is offering us access to new ways of working, it also requires us to think harder about how to look after our employees.
The wellbeing of your remote workers, shouldn’t be an afterthought. There should be a well-thought out plan for wellbeing activities and benefits that are accessible to all workers, no matter where they are based.
We also need to be even more conscious of ensuring they have meaningful human contact and the right kind of support from their managers. Here are my top tips on looking after the wellbeing of your remote-working colleagues:
The rewards and benefits you offer should be tailored for remote workers
You may have yoga in the office or a walking club, but how does this translate for your remote workers? Many of the wellbeing benefits offered by employers are accessible for office-based workers, but we need to keep our remote workers in mind here too.
Allow them to use their benefits budget in a way that suits them. Fund a running club for them, an on-line fitness programme or a meditation app.
Home workers tend to get less physical activity than those who
travel into an office so try to make it easy and accessible for them to move
more and look after their wellbeing.
Human contact is vital
Almost every study conducted in this area is conclusive; meaningful human contact is vital for both our physiological and psychological resilience. There is no substitute for this. We are a social species by nature, so loneliness can literally be deathly.
Studies show that people who report experiencing loneliness and social isolation are more like to die prematurely from illnesses like heart disease or a stroke1.
Can your remote workers make it to the office on certain days? Can you organise meet-ups for remote working teams? Can you run social or team building activities that are accessible to all?
Remote working offers many benefits but, despite having to battle sometimes unpleasant commutes, on-site workers get the benefit of interacting with their colleagues in a way remote workers can’t.
For the wellbeing of your remote workers, try in whatever way you can to include some human contact in their working schedule. This may sometimes mean picking up a hotel or travel bill here and there but social interaction is an essential for positive wellbeing.
You could also consider funding access to a shared office space or something similar so the employee still gets access to human contact in their working day.
Include them in team meetings and training sessions via video format
Video conferencing is the next best thing if face-to-face contact isn’t available. Some companies are already doing this, but if you don’t have the right set up, invest in some equipment to make this process slicker and more effective. Work with training providers that have experience delivering sessions via webinar. The sessions should still be interactive and the trainer should be able to take questions from remote workers.
Find ways to connect your remote workers to the impact of their work
A sense of purpose is essential to our wellbeing and is one of our key psychological needs. We need to feel like our lives have meaning; that we’re contributing positively to the world around us in some small way.
Remote workers sometimes miss out on the more casual conversations about how a project is going, what others are contributing to it and the impact it’s having on the company and its mission.
These are the kind of conversations that might happen in the office kitchen or when someone swings by your desk, which remote workers will most certainly miss out on.
Help them realise the impact of their work through regular updates and reporting. We need the small wins to boost us along the way in meeting a lofty target or goal and we need to feel like the work we’re doing matters.
Remember autonomy doesn’t mean a lack of structure
Giving people the autonomy to work from home is great, but this shouldn’t mean a complete lack of guidance, support and structure. I have met too many disillusioned remote workers who feel like they’ve been left to their own devices without any guidance from their managers.
People still need an element of structure and support in their role, so although we don’t need micro-management, we do need some kind of management. A complete lack of it will usually leave remote workers unengaged and dissatisfied with their working lives.
If anything, you should be more vigilant than usual with your remote workers. Make sure regular one-to-ones are still carried out and don’t be afraid to ask how their wellbeing is.
We are trying to encourage managers to start asking this question in their one-to-ones as a matter of protocol, meaning they are more likely to pick up potential problems earlier.
Remote working brings with it many benefits but we need to put in some careful thought about how we look after these employees and ensure a good sense of wellbeing for them, alongside everyone else in the company.
1. Valtorta NK, Kanaan M, Gilbody S, et al. 2016 ‘Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies’ Heart 2016;102:1009– 1016.
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