I’m a happy home worker.
I’ve spent 17,280 hours of my life commuting around London, and I’m NOT in a hurry to spend more of life doing that — especially when I have a young son at home, and I’d rather spend my time with him.
However, I do miss some of the day-to-day interactions with other people. I miss being able to meet people for lunch, or wandering by someone’s desk and discovering what they’re up to, or getting a fresh perspective on my projects.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, remote working has many upsides, but also a few downsides…
Challenging ‘remote’ conditions can cause stress and anxiety
We need to remember that not everyone wants to be a remote worker, some people have been thrust into remote work, and might work in circumstances that cause them additional stress and anxiety:
- A poor home environment
- Working in the same space they relax in
- Not a wide social circle outside of work
When individuals are stressed and anxious, it’s BAD for them and the business. Stress affects our health, wellbeing, and ability to function — which has a negative impact on the business. With team members fatigued, distracted, unmotivated, and off sick from work.
Now, there are lots of articles, about how to structure a remote team, and how to hire remotely, but there’s few articles (that I’ve seen!) about how to deal with stress.
In this post, I’m going to share 7 ways you can reduce remote team stress — and in doing so make your remote team happier, more productive, and healthier (less sick days).
Before you jump into the 7 ideas, here are some things that can make a remote team more stressed out…
Things a business does that increase stress levels in a remote team
1) Using a ‘one size fits all’ approach for a remote teams
One tremendous benefit of remote working is the ability to live and work flexibly, to balance projects with childcare, to attend Zoom calls and have time for the gym.
When companies to expect people to act the same way, it eradicates a lot of these benefits, and heaps stress on the shoulders of team members – who have to worry about how to fetch kids from school, or how they’ll exercise this month.
It’s also important to realise that some people work best early morning and some people work best late at night.
If your business is taking a HARD LINE on “how” team members do remote working, it’s likely that you’re increasing stress and reducing productivity.
2) Provide inadequate social interaction opportunities
One of the hardest things about remote working is that many team members feel isolated. They miss colleagues and friends talking to them every day, and they also miss out on opportunities to learn new skills from other people — or even just gain better perspective about a particular project, when it’s explained by someone else!
Social interaction is proven to reduce stress and improve health. So when a business doesn’t provide adequate social interaction opportunities (“We’re not paying you to talk”) team members will have increased stress levels.
3) Fostering an unhealthy approach to “working time” and “personal time”
When leaders don’t encourage team members to separate working time from personal time, team members can fail-to switch off from work. When this happens, they work too late, check emails whilst watching tv, and are preoccupied when spending time with loved ones.
This is bad for both the team members’ wellbeing and the business. Why is it bad for business? Well, many people believe this dangerous productivity myth….
MYTH — Team members who work long hours are more productive.
REALITY — Team members who work longer hours, get less done the next day as their brains are not recharged. And this becomes a diminishing cycle of returns, as the increasingly tired team members have to work longer hours to achieve even a basic level of productivity.
Now that we’ve looked at three things companies should NOT do, let’s look at some proactive ways your reduce stress in your remote team.
7 proactive ways to reduce stress in your remote team
Having stressed team members isn’t inevitable. There are some really simple things a leader can do to help their remote team have a happier, healthier, more productive relationship with work.
1) Give your team members a sense of control
When team members feel like they have some control over their work situation — it’s much easier for them to reduce stress and anxiety. For example, if you allow people to work when they’re best capable of performing (e.g. the early riser can get to work when it’s quiet, whilst the night owl has the weekends) — you give your team members a sense of control over their schedule which helps reduce stress!
2) Reduce conflict by having regular, scheduled check-ins
When team members feel like they’re not being heard, or they don’t understand why certain processes are in place — it’s inevitable that conflict will arise. It might be passive aggressive emails, or it might be just angry resignation. Either way though, the business can suffer reduced productivity and more stressed out team members!
To avoid these problems, you need to encourage your team members to speak openly about problems, and if they’re not getting heard — change your style of leadership!
3) Communicate clearly and concisely with your employees – don’t try to solve complex problems or potential conflicts over email
Did you know how much communication happens through body language?
Studies have shown that up to 65% of all communication is nonverbal, which means we miss out on a LOT of information when reading an email.
So if you need to lead people through complex situations, or handle interpersonal challenges, don’t do it over email. Instead, try to meet in person (or join a virtual meeting with all your remote team members) to talk about these issues and resolve them as a team.
Resolving challenges together — will reduce stress and improve team member satisfaction!
4) Help your remote team set clear goals
Clear goals are a necessity if you want to reduce stress levels out of your team.
If your team doesn’t know what your company’s objectives are, they won’t know why they’re working so hard — and they’ll end up feeling like it’s all for nothing! It can almost feel like they’re in the trenches with no chance of escape.
When team members have clear goals at work, not only will they have more purpose and be able to feel like they’re making progress — but stress levels are much lower!
This is because when the goal is clear, there’s nothing else to worry about (e.g. your future with the company). If you want to reduce stress levels in your remote team, give them clear goals to work towards.
5) Encourage working socialising time
When a remote team is spending all their time working, it’s easy for them to feel isolated. Consequently, team members can build stress around this issue of isolation, which just makes them less productive.
If your business encourages people to schedule in head down periods (to get critical stuff done), and then also encourage people to arrange social activities in the evenings (to help team members reduce stress) — you will see your remote team become happier, healthier and more productive.
6) Give your team members autonomy in their job and a sense of purpose at work
When people feel like what they’re doing is meaningful — they’ll be less stressed out about it.
For example, you can give them time to spend on pet projects that will help the company:
- develop a new product
- create workflow efficiencies
- contribute to the marketing efforts (blog posts, videos, etc)
You can also keep team members in the loop about the strategies and goals that the company is pursuing….
When people feel useful and can see the bigger picture — they’ll be much happier and less stressed!
7) Encourage your team to take regular breaks and holidays
Your remote team members work a lot, and sometimes that can mean they start to feel like work is all they have. This really sucks the joy out of working!
If you want your team members to take ownership of their jobs, make time for them to go on short breaks (e.g. week-long holidays) or help them with their regular exercise habits (which will reduce stress levels).
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” – Albert Einstein
There’s a lot of research out there about how stressed team members can negatively affect the productivity of an entire business. From absences to poor quality work to low motivation.
To combat this problem…
- you need to be approachable as a leader (so that your team feels comfortable coming to ask for advice or help)
- you need to hone your listening skills – so people feel listened to and validated,
- you need to emphasise and really try to understand their challenges
Follow this advice, and the other points in this article, and you’ll be able to make sure that all the remote people on your team are as comfortable, and non-stressed as possible — which should lead to the results you and your team deserve!
#Leadership #remote work #team effectiveness #stress