The Mental Health of the New Remote Workforce
By Tova Kreps, LCSW, President of Wellspring Counseling
In a recent Paycor survey of over 600 small to medium-sized business leaders, 47% of the leaders said that they had moved their employees from office to remote work during this Covid-19 crisis. 48% of those surveyed expect to continue to mix work-from-home and work-at-the-office arrangements in the future. This represents a significant shift in work and life styles which affects many of us.How does working from home affect our mental health and our businesses? Like most things in life, it appears that there are perks and pitfalls to be managed in order to keep our mental health and productivity at its best. Consider a few issues:
1. Blurred work boundaries. Studies show that remote workers tend to log more hours than their office-based counterparts and experience a blurring of boundaries between their home and work lives. Encouraging employees to check in for regular work hours, and creating expectations to keep home interruptions to a minimum helps workers stay focused while on the clock. These boundaries also help workers feel free to stop work when it’s over, enhancing the quality of both work and family time.
2. Autonomy. The freedom from direct supervision helps some workers to be more productive than ever. These workers can focus with less distraction, be creative and are intrinsically motivated. For other workers, this is a pitfall. They need accountability or the energy of others to keep themselves engaged. It is important for both employers and workers to know their natural motivation styles and to create communication plans to establish the best arrangements for individual success.
3. Communication planning. Knowing that there are predictable times for email communications, zooms, project summaries, weekly planning, updates on progress and more all help workers to stay on task and lessen potential stressors.
4. Social connection. Work relationships may be more easily established in person, but are not impossible remotely. When working remotely, try to include a little socializing even when on zoom, like an open zoom “coffee break”. Extroverts may need to be more proactive to prevent feeling isolated or disconnected. Introverts may need to be intentionally brought in so that they do not disconnect from the synergy of the whole. Occasional social gatherings for employees are helpful and mixing at-home with at-the-office schedules can buffer the isolation and keep team morale high.
5. Work spaces. It is important for at-home workers to create a pleasant environment that is conducive to work. The visual and practical aspects of desks, lights, plants, work tools, happy reminders and interruptions all affect the mental health of workers.With a little intentional thought, we can keep our spirits and our productivity high even with new remote work-styles. With so many hours of our lives spent at work, we are worth this effort!