Remote working is here to stay. It's been over a year now that most organisations have gone fully remote (whether temporary or long term) or adopted a hybrid working model. Face-to-face interactions, water cooler chats and coffee breaks have now been replaced by virtual meeting rooms and zoom calls.
The top trends in remote-working are:
- Adapting to remote technology. People have had to learn to connect virtually, whether it’s through Slack, Zoom, MS Teams, etc.
- Remote hiring and onboarding. In-person interviews and inductions have been replaced by video conferencing.
- Competencies like communication, collaboration, teamwork, and adaptability have to become more crucial.
- Performance assessment programs have changed.
- Employee engagement and well-being have become more important now than ever.
Mental health issues that remote work may bring along & the crucial role of “work-life balance”
Remote work does offer immediate benefits in the wake of the ongoing pandemic, it’s perhaps the most viable option for companies to make sure their employees stay safe. However, it is important to consider the mental health consequences that working remotely can bring along.
According to FlexJobs, 76% of employees agree that workplace stress has a negative impact on their mental health, leading to depression or anxiety.
Some of the most common mental health issues faced by employees when working from home include:
- Feeling isolated – We all are accustomed to some sort of social interaction happening at our workplaces. Attending Monday meetings, having quick chats with colleagues, enjoying an employee engagement activity or office retreats, etc. The shift to remote work has forced us all to follow a work schedule in isolation. The only interaction that happens is through a virtual platform. This in itself can become a major mental health challenge for many employees.
- Employee burnout - Many remote working employees often feel compelled to work longer hours. It’s like they feel the need to prove that they are not slacking and can be productive even when working from home. This may eventually lead to physical or emotional exhaustion as employees tend to stretch their working hours and go beyond their limits in order to do better.
- Increased anxiety – Right from worrying about the safety of their loved ones, to dealing with personal distractions at home, to having to adapt to alien technology, to having limited access to basic work equipment; remote employees have a lot going on. This tends to raise anxiety and stress levels and can take a toll on their mental health.
Organisations have been trying to ensure effective workflow and employee productivity in these remote work times. While these are vital for any company, helping employees sustain healthy boundaries between their work and personal lives is one crucial factor that needs to be paid serious attention to.
As per a study by Buffer, 22% of remote workers report that unplugging from work is the biggest challenge while working remotely.
Employee engagement, productivity and wellbeing are all linked to the fact that your employees are able to create a healthy work-life balance for themselves. This becomes all the more important now, as the boundaries between work and personal time stand blurred.
Though we all know how important a quick break from work is, most of us still struggle to disconnect from work and set a clear boundary for ourselves.
Here are some effective ways to maintain a work-life balance when working remotely:
1. Set up a separate workspace for yourself
First, set up a separate workplace in your home. It doesn’t have to be a proper office, even a corner of your living room or study or bedroom will do.
The aim is to be able to have a space dedicated to work, where you can stay focused and work effectively without any distractions. Having separate areas for work and leisure also makes it easier to mentally switch off / move away from work when the work day is over.
Another thing, try staying away from your ergonomic office chair during your days off. Remember, office space is for work days only.
2. Schedule your work time
According to a survey by Airtasker, 33% of employees insisted that the most effective way for remote employees to stay productive is to have set working hours.
Making a work routine for yourself at home and sticking to it will help you work efficiently and enjoy your free time. Create a ritual for yourself. Schedule your work hours and finish your work within those scheduled hours. For example, get up and go for a walk if possible, or do yoga, freshen up and start your day’s work, and leave your workspace after office hours.
Quick Tip: Never check work emails from bed! I am guilty of doing this too, but when aiming for a healthy remote work-life balance, work emails should be left for your designated office hours.
3. Plan your leisure time
Like planning your work hours, planning your after-work activities is equally important.
After work hours are over, shut down that laptop and spend time chatting with family at home; bring out that inner chef in you and giving cooking a try, go for a quick jog if possible. This will help you balance out your day well and stay productive.
4. Stay connected
While catching up in person may seem a little difficult in the current times (depending on the restrictions in your area), we can still stay social. A quick video call with friends, family or even colleagues can do wonders for our mental health. We often don’t get a lot of time to spend with our family because of our work commitments. This is the time to do that, seize this as an opportunity to spend some quality time with them.
Re-invent those water-cooler interactions. Launch a virtual coffee session with colleagues and just discuss random stuff (not related to work of course). Talk about anything, whether it’s a new series you’re watching or a new recipe you’re trying, the key is to stay connected.
Research states that having non-work related talk with colleagues elevates productivity, strengthens team building and employee engagement.
5. Indulge in self care
It’s important to take out some me-time, especially if you've been working long hours. One of the crucial factors in maintaining a constructive and productive work-life balance is carving out some time for yourself. This is required to break the everyday monotony and get out of the rut.
Read a book, or take up a virtual painting class or a mediation class. Start to pursue a long-forgotten hobby and bring back your creativity by focusing some time on your personal life.
Maintaining work-life balance when working remotely is both an employees’ and a managers’ responsibility. By taking up simple and easy steps, like setting a plan for themselves, moving away from work after working hours, following a healthy regime, getting some good sleep, etc. employees can reduce stress and ensure the right work-life balance for themselves.
At the same time, it’s important for leaders to foster working conditions that are conducive to sustaining a healthy balance between remote-work and their employees’ personal lives. The one question managers should ask themselves is - are they helping their teams achieve work-life balance in their remote work lifestyle and what else can they do to make it better?
Guest post from Garima Sharma, Lead – Talent Assessments & Employee Engagement at GreenThumbs.