How To Keep Your Remote Team Healthy
Remote work is not without its dangers. While it provides your workers with greater flexibility and eliminates commute times, there are mental, relationship, and health challenges to consider.
As the leader of a remote team, it is tempting to say that these are the responsibilities of each team member, not you. But when a star worker’s productivity drops or they quit because of health or relationship breakdown, you will wish that you could have helped them earlier.
As leadership and change expert Sheila Murray Bethel says, “If leadership serves only the leader, it will fail.”
How To Keep Your Remote Team Healthy: Three Key Areas
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 66% of workers say work is a significant source of stress, and that has increased during the pandemic.
While remote work can reduce some work stresses such as fighting for a seat on the bus and workplace bullying, it amplifies other stresses such as isolation, uncertainty, and the blurring of boundaries between work and personal time.
In an earlier survey by the APA, around two-thirds of remote workers said they sometimes felt isolated and alone. More alarmingly, 17% said they felt isolated and alone all the time.
To reduce the feelings of isolation and uncertainty, leaders of remote teams need to put in the right systems. Caring about your team’s wellness requires more than just an easy fix. This includes good Employment Assistance Programs but also everyday systems that foster transparency, connectedness, and positive feedback.
Tools like Slack should be used over email. This makes it easier for new team members or team members in different time zones to stay on top of key team communication, helping them do their jobs and reducing feelings of uncertainty and exclusion.
A good onboarding program for remote workers also helps new remote workers connect to the company and their co-workers.
Positive feedback is transformative. Regular and forward feedback from supervisors greatly reduces stress and uncertainty. Research by Gartner found that peer-to-peer feedback can increase performance by as much as 14 percent.
While a lack of feedback is a problem in many traditional offices, leaders of remote officers need to be even more deliberate as there are fewer organic opportunities for impromptu feedback online. Start calls with personal check-ins and be empathetic.
A culture of positive feedback can be built by modeling from the top and by making space for positive feedback in team and one-on-one meetings.
As Goeth says, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more.”
Time is the currency of relationships. But for many remote workers, the flexibility of remote work is leading them to shortchange their family and friends, leading to dysfunction and unhappiness.
According to a survey of 2,800 workers, 70% of workers who have transitioned to remote work during the pandemic work weekends and 45% now work more during the week than before.
Leaders of remote teams need to help workers create clear boundaries between work and home. Out-of-office messages on tools like Slack can help. Leaders should also be proactive in encouraging their teams to plan their days to include break times and time for family and friends.
Remote Leaders can also make counseling resources available for those whose home lives are suffering. Empathy in difficult times also goes a long way.
For the knowledge worker, good health begins at the desk. Good ergonomics has long been championed in traditional offices, but many remote leaders do not give it a second thought. But did you know that musculoskeletal disorders from lifting, bad posture, and repetitive movements are the largest cause of lost or restricted work time?
Working from the lounge is ok as a temporary measure but is not a healthy long-term solution.
Remote leaders need policies and training to encourage good ergonomics, including checklists and even financial help towards the purchase of well-designed chairs and desks.
Remote leaders also need to encourage their team to get enough sleep and exercise. As is the case with relationships, work can bleed into sleep and exercise time.
For overseas-based remote workers, health insurance can make a huge difference to their health and productivity. In the US, the best companies do not think twice about providing access to health insurance for their employees. So why should overseas workers be excluded?
In the past, it was not practical for companies to organize health insurance in different countries but now startups like SafetyWing provide a simple solution for offering your entire team a comprehensive health insurance policy, no matter where they are located. It’s global and easy to set up. Expect health insurance to become a point of differentiation between employers for top overseas talent going forward.
How To Keep Your Remote Team Healthy : The Bottom Line
A wise leader ensures his workers are healthy in addition to being fairly compensated. Human resources are a company’s most valuable resource so let’s start treating them like it, no matter where they are working from.