Remote working presents a raft of upsides: cost savings, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. But in the age of telecommuting, is emotional intelligence the first casualty? Remote working is a growing trend we’ve been seeing in the global workforce, even before staff were recently asked to work from home. Yet, one of the biggest concerns today is mental health in a roving workforce.
80 per cent of employees cited better work-life balance and less stress associated with working from home, a positive in a workforce where presenteeism costs Australian organisations $34 billion a year. However, while remote working can benefit both employer and employee, the situation can change when telecommuting is a necessity, not a choice!
Extroverts may experience mental health difficulties as they are forced to go without the camaraderie of the office. Even introverts may find extended periods of isolation challenging to their state of mind.
Making staff wellbeing a priority is a mark of all good organisations, and part of that is regular communication around relevant issues. Scheduling informal chats sounds counterintuitive to productivity but in fact, it is critical. This is the time to prioritise phone calls over emails. It takes extra time and conscious effort, but quick calls help ensure employees don’t feel isolated.
Formal weekly meetings or daily “stand-ups” are also good strategies in maintaining a sense of connectedness and business-as-usual. Employers can make use of technology such as video conferencing, document sharing platforms and group chat to keep employees in the loop.
Research suggests staff look to their manager for cues about sudden changes or crisis situations. Employers need to both acknowledge any stress on the part of the employee and impart a sense of confidence about the future.
To really be effective, communication needs to be followed up with real and meaningful actions. This can involve the provision of wellbeing services such as an Employee Assistance Program, for example www.accesseap.com.au or www.beyondblue.org.au, wellbeing allowances, or any other relevant support services.
With research showing telecommuting makes it harder to maintain boundaries with home life, something that can affect mental health, organisations can also encourage remote employees to practice a few basic strategies.
- Setting up a “home office” conducive to working effectively. It should be somewhere work can easily be packed away in the evenings or on the weekends.
- Sticking as closely as possible to normal work hours and routines, including getting dressed for work.
- Scheduling normal breaks throughout the day for coffee and lunch or, if possible, a short walk to help maintain mental health.
- Keeping in touch with a manager to continue to set and review goals; and importantly, to acknowledge and celebrate wins and successes.
- Using apps such as Todoist and Toggl to stay productive as well as mental health apps like Mindfulness or Headspace.
With proper planning and the right attitude, you can make working remotely a positive experience. DGL Accountants have promptly and successfully transitioned our team to a largely work-from-home footing – so if you have any questions in respect of working in self isolation, please reach out.