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Remote Worker's Health: How Can Managers Help - by Kent Reason

Identifying Remote Employees Who Need Help

Remote working has become increasingly prominent over the past few years. This has provided incredible flexibility to both employers and employees, as well as several new challenges. Without frequent interactions in person, it can be difficult for managers to detect when a remote employee is struggling with mental or emotional issues. Learning about some of the stressors of remote work, as well as the signs of distress among staff, can help supervisors identify when their people need help. 

Sources of Stress Among Remote Workers

According to recent data, there is a direct correlation between the increase in remote work and substance abuse and mental health issues since 2020.

Working from home can contribute to feelings of isolation, disconnection, and burnout. Common stressors may include a lack of social interaction, difficulty separating work and home life, reduced access to manager support, and distractions that disrupt workflow. Awareness of these potential pitfalls enables employers to recognize signs of struggle among their remote staff. 

Common Signs of Distress 

So how do supervisors know what to look for in employees they don’t regularly see in person? Remote workers may show changes in behavior or performance that indicate that they need assistance. Some of the signs to watch for include a decrease in productivity or quality of work, missing deadlines, an increase in sick days, expressions of frustration, or a lack of responsiveness throughout the day. These cues for depression and anxiety can be subtle, such as withdrawal from social interactions, but it’s important to make note of anything that seems irregular from the employee’s normal behavior. 

Set Clear Expectations 

To help remote workers thrive, set clearly defined expectations. These may include approved communication methods, set office hours, adequate break times throughout the day, and systems for tracking progress. The structure will alleviate stress in remote workers, as they will not feel like they need to make up their own rules. 

Seek Feedback From Remote Employees Often  

Checking in with remote workers will help track how they’re feeling. During one-on-ones, ask targeted questions and encourage honest dialogue about their issues or frustrations. Don’t hesitate to inquire about workload, work-life balance, office setup, and other potential sources of stress. Even the most apprehensive employees will be more likely to speak up if they feel heard and cared about. 

Be Flexible 

Employers who demonstrate empathy and allow flexibility in their remote staff will create a bond of trust. Be open to adjusting hours or responsibilities if a person is facing childcare conflicts or other home-related stressors. Accommodating vacation requests and sick time will go a long way in showing that at-home employees are a valued part of the team. 

Measure Productivity by Deliverables

Focus on results rather than time spent online. Set clear objectives and evaluate performance based on meeting these daily, weekly, or monthly goals. Measuring worker success by deliverables will promote trust, as employees will not feel micromanaged.  

Provide Resources and Equipment for Workers in Need

Be sure to provide information on mental health services and wellness programs available to remote employees in need of help. Make sure that all workers have access to the same equipment, including computers, ergonomic chairs, and more. Remote workers will feel valued when provided with the resources and equipment they need to succeed. 

Taking proactive steps to identify employees who are struggling leads to greater satisfaction, trust, and productivity. Workers deserve to feel connected to the rest of their team and empowered to voice their opinions, even when working from afar. 

Author Bio

Kent Reason is an editor and content specialist with Ohio Recovery Center, a substance use treatment center located in Van Wert, Ohio. Ohio Recovery Center offers an array of services for addiction and mental health, including multiple levels of care and evidence-based treatment options. 

Contact HR Solutions, LLC if you need HR Consulting assistance to help you navigate managing remote workers.

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