Remote work can benefit your team’s mental health if you set them up for success. But without proper support systems and people-focused processes in place, it can also cause a lot of stress and, in severe cases, burnout.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to protect your team’s health and well-being as much as possible. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it’s also good for your business. After all, enhancing employee well-being can improve your company’s performance and bottom line.
Thankfully there’s a lot you can do to alleviate stress and safeguard your team’s well-being while they work remotely. Below we list seven practical ways remote and remote-friendly businesses can reduce stress and burnout effectively to boost engagement, satisfaction, and performance.
1. Build a People-centered Culture
Culture is the foundation of your business. A positive, caring culture leads to happier, healthier employees, and a toxic culture has the opposite effect. So what actually is culture? Investopedia sums it up quite well: “Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
In other words, culture touches every aspect of your business. It can be something that “just happens,” and you have little control over, or it can be something you define and actively work to achieve. The latter is much more beneficial for your team and your business as it empowers you to shape the narrative to suit your goals.
Building a people-centered culture starts with defining your core values. Some examples of such values include:
Once you’ve chosen your values - four or five is a good number - you must commit to living them. Our following tips reveal how you can do that.
2. Make Well-being a Priority in Your Policies & Processes
It may sound obvious, but your company policies and processes should reflect your people-centered values, and employee well-being should be at the heart of them. Here are some examples of policies and processes that foster well-being and reduce stress:
- Create a code of conduct that clearly states your company values and desired behaviors to ensure your whole team understands what’s expected of them.
- Offer flexible hours, allowing your employees to fit work around their personal lives.
- Provide plenty of paid time off and vacation-positive guidance so your team gets enough rest throughout the year.
- Ensure your employees have access to paid sick leave, covering both physical and mental health.
- Outline communication best practices that enable employees to set reasonable boundaries between work and home life.
- Define a budget dedicated to improving well-being in the workplace.
- Review your recruitment process to ensure you’re only hiring value-aligned talent.
- Establish an effective feedback loop so you can understand how employees are feeling and what you can do to support them further.
- Implement strategic workforce planning, so you hire enough people to share responsibilities as your business grows.
Be sure to document your policies and processes in a centralized place, so they’re accessible to all employees. It’s also a good idea to ask new hires to read through and sign policies during their onboarding so they can get the most out of them from day one.
3. Lead by Example
Strong leadership is essential to upholding company culture and values and, in turn, reducing stress and burnout. If your leaders don’t exude your values, it’s unlikely your employees will feel motivated to live them either.
In practice, this might look like senior management saying no to meetings out of hours or taking a week-long vacation to relax and recharge. It might look like parents in leadership letting their staff know they’ll be offline for a school meeting or taking time off when they’re feeling unwell.
Ultimately, a top-down approach is the best way to enact change throughout the whole business.
4. Train Your Managers
It’s not just senior leadership that has a huge impact on employee stress and well-being; people managers do too. So it’s important to train them to be ambassadors for your values. Hosting manager-specific training sessions on feedback, trust-based management, and boundary-setting is a good place to start.
It’s also crucial to teach managers the signs of stress and burnout in their employees and how they can help combat it. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- A decrease in productivity and performance
- Higher levels of irritability and sensitivity
- Being more cynical or negative than usual
- Increased absenteeism (or, conversely, an inability to take time off)
If you don’t have the internal expertise to run these sessions, it can be helpful to seek external support to ensure your training sessions are high-quality and effective.
5. Reduce Zoom Fatigue
Hopping from one video call to another isn’t optimal for our mental health or general well-being. Back-to-back meetings in person are tiring enough, but throw in a lack of non-verbal cues and potential distractions from resident children, housemates, and pets, and your colleagues are bound to feel exhausted.
The good news is that remote work doesn’t have to be packed full of video calls. In fact, a Zoom-filled day isn’t necessarily a productive one. Instead, it’s wise for remote teams to adopt more asynchronous communication methods.
Asynchronous communication involves teams communicating and collaborating at different times. It reduces reliance on immediate responses and meetings in favor of flexible communication. As a result, employees have more time to do deep, focused work and check off their pressing to-do lists.
Some meetings, like manager-employee one-to-ones, can help reduce stress and burnout, but you can probably cut down on meetings elsewhere. There are plenty of remote tools, like Loom and Monday.com, that make async communication simpler and more effective. You can read more about them here.
It's not just work tasks that can benefit from an asynchronous approach - team building can also be conducted asynchronously. Try a platform like SquadPal, which gives your team access to fun challenges, competitions, and games to collaborate on whenever suits them individually.
But if you do want a quick sync up, why not experiment with a fresh approach? Try audio-only calls or walking meetings to boost your energy and lower your stress while getting in some beneficial movement.
6. Offer Well-being Benefits
While yoga alone isn’t enough to combat stress and burnout in the workplace, taking a holistic approach to employee health is sensible. Giving your employees access to health-focused benefits helps support them in their work life and personal life.
Here are some ideas to help you build your own well-being benefits package:
- Comprehensive health insurance
- Access to free therapy and coaching
- Subscriptions to well-being platforms or gym memberships
- Employee assistance programs
- Co-working day passes (for getting out of the house!)
- Mental health first aider courses
- In-person retreats and social meet-ups
Remember to ask your employees what they’d benefit from and tailor your benefits accordingly.