As remote working is here to stay in at least some doses going forward, let’s look at one of the big cornerstones of the office vs. remote working debate: the mental health aspects of working from home.
Now, as we’ve mentioned before, a lot of people actually thrive on working from home and feel much better. Still, though there are some people that don’t thrive. And on top of that – you as an employer have the responsibility to make sure that even those who seem to do well really do. And are treated well. Remote working mental health was never more important.
Flexible working is shaping up to be a key factor in many employee’s career decisions, and companies who ace flex will ace the future of talent retention.
Here are five short tips on how to better help your employees feel great when working from outside the office.
1. Encourage a routine workday
While you should definitely also account for differences in your employees work schedules (after all, that’s what flex means.) – make sure there is some routine to what is happening around your company.
After all, most people feel better with a set schedule.
If you work with sprint-cycles or a similar management model, this happens quite easily by default, but most companies will need to go a bit further than that.
Here are some tips:
- Start (and end) the day with a catchup – Most companies will have some kind of morning catchup in place. But what about book-ending the day? Set a time in the afternoon for everyone just to check in – even if it’s just through direct messaging. Just avoid making it about micromanaging and checking in on people’s tasks. It’s about helping compartmentalise the day.
- Encourage everyone to show when they’re online – Again, not in a micromanaging way, but if you use Slack, try adding Clockwise as well. It shows when you’re in meetings, in focus time or what type of task you’re doing – automatically.
- Give enough time and notice for meetings – don’t play around too much with people’s schedule. In the end, it will lead to disjointed and worse productivity. Set a rule of 4 hours notice for a 1 hour meeting where possible and to try not to schedule meetings too late in the day.
2. Encourage employee connection
Make sure your employees don’t feel isolated. People who feel recognised work better.
A little goes a long way here:
- Encourage transparency and collaboration – make sure everyone in the company knows what’s going on at any point. If you’re in management – a transparent update to everyone is one way to do this, for example.
- Schedule non-work-related catchups – It’s not all work. Non-work catch-ups can be anything from game nights to one-on-ones. For some great tips – listen to our podcast on the topic here.
- Give kudos – This is the easiest bit. Either in your morning or afternoon catchup – try having people do a round of kudos to colleagues that have done something for them that day. Quick wins are often all that’s needed.
Your key is to make sure all employees feel listened to and valued. Exactly what to do depends a bit on things like culture and personality types. Whatever way works best for your organisation – try it!
3. Make sure you set clear expectations
Performance tracking also becomes more important with remote working – especially from the perspective of showing your employees they have a purpose with the work they are doing, even in isolation.
Again, this isn’t that difficult and the key point is clarity. You can read more on our thoughts on goal tracking elsewhere, so let’s cut to the key points:
- Set clear KPIs for every business unit and every individual – When people know what’s expected from them, they work better.
- Use KPI-catchup time to talk about how your employees are feeling – this is as old as time, but rings more true now than ever.
- Invest in a tool – performance tracking works best when formalised.
- Keep it positive and constructive – So that KPI wasn’t hit this week. How come? Keep these conversations positive and forward-looking.
- Be realistic – On the flip side, don’t just accept any and all excuses for something not being done. Set boundaries. Especially in a transparent organisation, some low-performing employees ‘getting away with stuff’ will only demotivate the rest of your team!
4. Provide the tools necessary for your employees
Make sure you provide both the hardware and software necessary for your employees.
Do you have a good remote working device policy? Make sure you provide your employees with the tools they need to do their work. This could just mean providing a laptop, but the rule of thumb should be that whatever people are provided in the office should be provided at home. As a bonus: a good desk chair goes a long way.
Do you have the right software? Chat tools and so on are of course the basics. But what about document sharing? Is there a centralised system? Any other collaborative tools you need?
5. Provide mental health help where needed
Perhaps the most important thing on the list. The rest of the topics on here are good ways to try to minimise potential mental health effects on employees from remote working.
Is your employee assistance programme up for the task? Do you have some councillors or other help? If you don’t have the investment for employee assistance programmes, let them know where they can find help if needed.
Bonus tip: Encourage stand-out performance
One question remains – how do you create a positive remote working culture to promote remote working mental health? Try our whitepaper on acing remote working performance and see how to create a positive, flexible culture that promotes well-being as well as results.