There’s no denying the fact that remote working has come to prominence of late. The practice has been steadily rising over the last couple of decades, but its role during COVID-19 has brought it to the fore. Indeed, many companies — both small enterprises and large corporations like Facebook — are now making it a permanent part of operations. This positive response has largely been the result of a realization that current technology not only makes remote work possible, but it holds enormous benefits for businesses, consumers, and employees alike.
Still, that’s not to say having dispersed employees is always going to be plain sailing. There are some distinct challenges to overcome, not the least of which is putting in place measures to keep workers motivated, healthy, and happy. A part of the solution here is to ensure employees can achieve a work-life balance.
Whether your company has just a few freelance employees or is a burgeoning multinational, it’s worth taking a closer look at this particular challenge.
Why make changes to work life balance?
Making adjustments to your business practices requires consideration. After all, you’re likely to be putting some time and investment into changes. So, before you commit, what is imperative to encourage a healthy work-life balance?
When your workers are committed to your business goals, it is your ethical — and to some extent, legal — duty to make sure your operations don’t cause them harm. This doesn’t just go for the physical aspects of the job but also their psychological wellness. A habit of overworking in the same space you live can be a recipe for burnout. Putting in place measures to redress the balance not only serves your moral responsibility, it also demonstrates to your workers how your values put their well-being front and centre. This in turn can help them to act ethically and loyally in return.
It might seem like a contradiction, but making certain your employees aren’t prioritizing work over their personal lives is good for your business’ productivity. This is vital knowledge, as the shift to remote working is seeing many businesses have issues navigating how to keep their disparate workforces connected and productive. Many of the solutions here revolve around actions that maintain a work-life balance. Trusting your workforce enough not to micromanage them, being open to a flexible schedule, and encouraging personal social connections between colleagues are all routes to keeping your workers from feeling undue stress. Your commitment to giving them space here tends to ensure your employees are fully focused when they are on the clock.
Encouraging a positive work-life balance in remote settings should revolve around your workplace culture. Don’t make the mistake of thinking culture is only for in-person offices. Placing some focus here helps to ensure a certain amount of consistency in your remote team — especially when it comes to measures that maintain work-life balance.
This begins with tackling the fact that employees are distant from one another. When workers are not in the same room, this can be detrimental to forming positive team bonds, which in turn can create a sense of isolation. It’s certainly true some might prefer to work independently, but social contact can be an essential part of reducing stress and creating an enjoyable work environment. Take time to put in place protocols for casual, fun activities. This can be the day-to-day act of having a non-work chat channel on your communications platform, to arranging virtual games or events as a break from the grind.
You also need to extend the focus of your culture to ensure workers feel appreciated for their efforts. A key element in keeping your remote employees engaged is creating a culture that celebrates them. When workers feel that not just their work but also their place in the company is a benefit, it can affect the satisfaction they get from their role. Your approach should certainly include regular 1:1s to talk about how they are doing and more public visibility of their abilities through collaborations. Make a point of celebrating their birthdays as a team, too, and mark holidays with virtual work parties. This can both highlight appreciation and make the workday feel less relentlessly corporate.
Poor health can significantly disrupt your employees, having negative effects on both their work and home life. This means that it is in the best interests of everyone involved that you commit to promoting wellness in your business. This can certainly be more challenging in remote environments, as your ability to see healthy habits may seem limited by distance, but it’s certainly not impossible.
The first step is to just make ongoing wellness part of day-to-day work routines. Especially when you have a new employee who is also new to working from home, they may not be used to applying practices that can make the process both productive and healthy. Make sure your employees have an opening to ask for help, as this will reduce the stress they feel. They should also take time away for lunch and snacks; even if you don’t make this a strict part of the schedule, check in with them to establish they’re eating occasionally and taking time away from their screen. Obviously, it’s not great to micromanage. But by paying attention to these small yet vital elements, and practising what you preach too, you can send the message that this is a key habit to build.
It can also be wise to provide your remote workers with resources for wellness. You can’t force them to use them, but you can remove barriers they may have had before. Make contact with local gyms and see if you can arrange reduced rates for your employees. In terms of mental wellness, there is also an increasing number of telehealth therapy providers. Subsidising access to these can be a vital tool in maintaining their mental wellbeing, and demonstrating you care.
Remote operations can be a good route to having a dynamic team. However, to keep workers productive and positive, you need to help maintain their work-life balance. Consider cultural alterations that boost socialization and celebration, and keep their wellness as a priority. With a few simple but robust measures, you can make the experience positive for everyone.
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