How to help remote employees avoid loneliness and burnout
Today is a weekday, and therefore Jeff, Technical Director of Economical Insurance, kisses her daughter goodbye and waves her hand while she goes to the door of the public school. Then he either turns the car around and returns home to spend the day at a remote job, or travels farther to the office with flexible working hours — all he has to do is keep his boss in the loop.
In 1871, when the company was founded, Jeff's employer could hardly have imagined such a scenario. Today, such working conditions with staff are turning from a progressive advantage into a standard practice. The new study , for which 18,000 workers from 96 international companies were surveyed, found that 70% of employees work remotely once a week, and 53% spend half a week not in the office.
The policy allowing flexible hours and remote work is gaining more and more popularity among employees. A study focused on the flexibility of this policy and its impact on the performance of working parents confirmed that flexible work schedules seriously increase the appreciation of workers. It also increases job satisfaction, reduces stress - especially for those parents whose children are at home.
Employees like remote work and flexible hours, as they offer tangible benefits. And this is not only a time saving, which they spend on getting to the workplace - there are financial advantages. Studywho studied data from job sites and from the US Bureau of Labor, found that the average employee who worked remotely saves $ 444 on fuel and spends 50% less on meals. Most parents save on childcare if they can arrange for them to be at home when their children are not in school.
As more and more workers want to take advantage of the options of remote work and flexible hours, companies are reconciled with the fact that today talents want to work that way. The Workforce of the Future report from 2018, prepared by Upwork, states that 63% of US workers offer some kind of flexible schedule. For example, PwCproposed the “All Roles Flexible” program in an attempt to reduce negative attitudes towards employees with a flexible schedule. In a recent interview, Dorothy Hisgrove, a partner and personnel director at PwC Australia, told me: “In PwC, 82% of people use some form of flexible schedule. They achieve the greatest success when they have the opportunity every day to flexibly build their day so that it meets both professional needs and allows them to work on those things that workers consider to be priorities outside their careers. ”
As more and more employees work flexibly or remotely, companies will have to change their work system. “It forces us to carry out structural and system changes in order to adapt to different ways of working, the“ availability ”of employees and their effectiveness,” says Hishorow. Remote or flexible work also presents new challenges for managers. Among them are two - burnout and loneliness.
One of the risks, oddly enough, is burnout. People use a flexible schedule or a remote control to be more grateful to the employer. This feeling of being in debt can cause some remote employees to press the gas until they run out of fuel. Study“Doing more with less?” Flexible Work Practices and Work Intensification examines the unexpected consequences of adopting flexible work practices. Using the theory of social exchange, the researchers suggested that "employees respond to the possibility of flexible work, spending more effort to regain the advantage provided by the employer." Part of the intensification occurs at the worker's level (they provide a “reciprocal service”), but often the employer himself fills the employee with tasks that cannot be completed in a certain time.
To ensure that employees are grateful, not dependent on a sense of duty, do not disregard them. Go beyond project updates and work conversations. Leaders need to know how people around the world are doing. For example, be more attentive to employees who travel frequently. Instead of dumping them on return with meetings, give them time to reunite with their family and recharge.
Rethink what actions characterize hard work. Working late, answering mail late at night, working on weekends, going to work during an illness, accumulating vacations, skipping sleep - all these signs are too often regarded as effective work. However, they all only accelerate the burnout. Set an example, encourage your virtual employees to slow down (even when they don’t feel like it), maintain breaks for mental health, leave on vacation, time with family.
Remember, burnout of remote employees is more difficult to diagnose, because you don’t see how they change in everyday life. Organize a regular inspection process, and recognize signs of burnout .
According to the report on the status of remote work for 2018, loneliness is the biggest problem of remote work. Although being alone is not the only reason for feeling lonely, it can make a significant contribution. It is also a growing and dangerous epidemic that seriously bothers scientists.
At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Julian Holt-Lansted of Brigham Young University presented the results of 148 studieswho studied in the sum of 308 849 people. The study found a link between loneliness and premature death. “Reliable evidence has accumulated that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk of premature death, and the magnitude of risk exceeds many of the leading health-related causes,” shared Holt-Lanstead.
What can managers do in this situation? For example, you can organize a “day at the office” when remote workers are invited to come in person. According to a survey of 9917 working people in the United States, conducted by Gallup, remote workers feel the happiest when they need to appear in the office once a week. Such “almost remote” workers report that they are a little more involved in the work, but, more importantly, they are more likely than the permanently distant workers, or those who are constantly present in the office, have declared their best friend at work, and that in their work there are more opportunities for growth and learning.
If workers live far away and cannot visit the office weekly, make an effort to invite them to the office once a month or once a quarter. Joe Granato, director of the supply chain at the Mountain Equipment Cooperative, told me that he considered it necessary to make budget allocations that would be spent on personnel collection mandatory. “The time spent in personal meetings gives the opportunity to form high-quality relationships, to ensure high speed and trust in communication. Having the opportunity to come together in reality is an investment in quality. ” Granato also promotes the “remote work code”, which will help equalize expectations and ensure that all employees understand the overall strategy.
Today's conditions with a flexible schedule and remote work are much more volatile than the rigid “flexible plan” of the past. Regardless of what the HR policy may require, managers in a competitive labor market will do what keeps people at work. And today, among these advantages are likely to be options for flexible work and management style that helps remote workers thrive.