2021 has brought forward new societal norms and communication innovations that have put remote work into hyper-drive.
Since the onset of the pandemic, employees have had to adapt to alternative methods for working from home. Many have acclimatized to working remotely and created hybrid office setups within their homes by transforming spare bedrooms and kitchen tables to mirror the old office space.
However, the Wellness Council of America explains that employers are still responsible for workplace wellness programs even when their workforce is remote. In particular, supporting staff who work in isolation should be a key priority for your remote team(s), along with mitigating other risks to their physical and emotional health while working offsite.
What is a Remote Employee?
A remote employee is someone employed by a business who works outside of the official company premises. Though it offers greater flexibility, remote working comes with unique challenges to an employee’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
However, much like when in the formal office space, employers must look after their remote workers’ wellbeing, which can impact performance and productivity.
Legal Responsibilities to Remote Employees
Employers are legally responsible for both onsite and remote employees. Several bills outline an employer’s legal duty of care to employees, regardless of whether they work onsite or remotely:
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA, 1970)
Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA, 1938)
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1965)
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA, 1993)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990)
Equal Pay Act (EPA, 1963)
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA, 1967)
Workers Compensation (1884)
Why is the Wellbeing of Remote Employees Important?
The wellbeing of remote employees is important because they don’t experience in-person workplace culture or the controlled ergonomic environment of the company office space. In addition, isolation from colleagues may impact employees’ mental health, potentially leading to disengagement and negatively impacting their performance and quality of work.
When employees achieve wellness, it can offer a range of benefits, including increased productivity and employee morale. However, employees working remotely face new challenges to their wellbeing, and it can be more difficult for employers to gauge and support their workers’ health when they no longer share a physical office space.
Steps for Managing Remote Employee Wellbeing
The positive impact of telecommuting on productivity shouldn’t come at the expense of employee wellness. As employees continue to work from home, it’s important to take care of their day-to-day physical and emotional wellbeing.
Offering wellbeing support can help re-establish work-life balance and ensure productivity continues and morale remains high.
At Health Assured, we recommend the following steps towards more consciously supporting your remote employees:
Open Conversations About Wellbeing
Employers can normalize conversations about wellbeing support for their employees who work from home with workshops and programs dedicated to mental health and wellbeing.
Emotional support can be challenging to manage, especially when employees are without direct interaction for lengthy periods. For some, working from home long term can significantly affect their mental health. Employers should try to spot early signs of work-related stress, social anxiety, disengagement, and burnout and offer resources or support where appropriate.
Ensure Work-Life Balance
Flexible working conditions can lead to employees relaxing their working hours and inadvertently working for longer. You should ensure your workers are taking regular breaks and monitor for any signs of overworking. Also, be sure to consider the individual needs of your remote employees (e.g., those with childcare responsibilities, health conditions, disabilities, etc.) and remove any repercussions for personal situations that interfere with work.
Set Clear Objectives
As we adapted to new working norms, our methods for completing work also changed. Employers should set clear objectives for project outcomes that suit employees working from home.
Further, outline how to prioritize each objective by the level of importance, ensuring your remote team is always on the same page. Doing so will also help identify the projects or team members that need more time or assistance for completion.
Supply your employees with the necessary resources to support their physical and emotional health while they work remotely. Ensure they have access to mental health services and the tools and information they may need to look after their wellbeing.
You can provide physical support by ensuring that IT and communication channels are accessible for all employees. Employers can also provide ergonomic equipment like keyboards, risers, support cushions, and chairs to help support physical health. Any issues of discomfort and pains relating to remote setups should be reported in risk assessments and minimized.
Adapting to Hybrid Work
One by-product of the pandemic is a collective global acceptance of new hybrid work arrangements.
Employers must adapt and provide further support for their teams through safe working regulations, training, and policies.
By meeting these requirements, you can support their wellbeing and facilitate their ongoing career development and productivity.
To learn more about how you can support your employees’ wellbeing, visit Health Assured.