The Future Career Support for Remote Work Mental Health

June 2, 20214:24 pm2645 views
The Future Career Support for Remote Work Mental Health
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Having more freedom and flexibility at work is like a long-coming dream that has finally come true. Today, more employees can work flexibly and remotely in the comfort of their home. Especially in the era of COVID-19, remote working is expected to stay longer than expected. Even so, employees continue demanding more freedom and flexibility. 

A 2017 study published on People Management showed that nearly three-quarter (74 percent) of the employees cited they want more freedom in their roles. At the same time, more than half (53 percent) of employees would consider leaving their job if the structure and culture of their organisation did not change. A third (34 percent) of staff admitted that their work is overly regulated and they are forced to work within overly controlled structures.  

Another survey by Adecco disclosed that despite the readiness of employees to work in a physical office when the pandemic eases, they want more flexibility. More than three quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed favoured a hybrid model that split work across the office and the home. Likewise, Adecco recorded that most C-level leaders said they believed their business will benefit from increased, routine flexible working. 

The rise of remote work – more freedom and flexibility 

With the demand for freedom and flexibility continuously rising, employers start to evaluate the benefits of providing better flexibility and freedom, and adopt them in their employee management. The most common form of flexibility that companies offer is the ability to work remotely. Remote work is a working style allowing professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully. 

According to Holloway in their book “Remote Work”, the advantages of including remote working arrangements will not only impact companies and businesses but also communities and the environment. The impacts, as written by Holloway, are as follows: 

  • The numerous benefits remote work can bring to companies include reducing operational costs. Real estate is not cheap, especially in city centres like New York and the Bay Area. The costs of office spaces and housing can be increasingly a major barrier to entry for smaller companies and startups, therefore enabling remote options is the best way to save cost for renting spaces. 
  • Holloway wrote that an average single hire can cost up to $7000 and often more for highly technical or specialised roles. The time needed to fill roles can also take up to two months. If employers enable remote hiring, there is a great chance of reducing the time and costs needed to incur finding talents. Companies take 33 percent less time to hire a new employee in only 4.5 – 7 weeks remotely. 
  • Numerous studies and surveys already prove that remote working arrangement can increase employee satisfaction and retention, especially for younger generations like millennials and Gen Z. 
  • The more distributed an organisation is, the better it will manage its diversity, equality, and inclusion. This is because a distributed company is often employing candidates from different walks of life that will make the culture more diverse. Thus, HR is required to provide more diverse and inclusive work arrangements. 
  • For the environment, remote work can reduce carbon footprint. In fact, pioneer remote work/telecommuting Jack Nilles said that this arrangement is meant as a way to reduce commute, sprawl, and shortage of nonrenewable resources. More recent studies have also revealed that remote work helps reduce daily commutes which has a positive environmental impact. 
  • Improvement in productivity, engagement, and motivation have also been included as one of the greatest benefits of flexible work arrangement. The authors mentioned that flexible schedules typically lead to self-reported improvement in people’s work/life balance. 

See also: How Much Should a Company Invest in Wellness Program?

Every rose has its thorn 

Those are a few of many benefits remote work can provide to organisations, employees, communities, and the environment. While there are plenty of advantages employers can reap from enabling remote work arrangements, every rose has its thorn and we should not be blind to the disadvantage that remote work might create. 

One of the serious downsides remote working arrangement can pose is it can decrease employee’s mental health and wellbeing. Aetna International survey recently found that 33 percent of people working from home during the pandemic are concerned about their mental health. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, nearly all Aetna respondents experience one or more negative downsides of remote working arrangement. Here are the stats: 

  • 32 percent of respondents said they experience more stress and 43 percent gained more weight which indicates top health concerns. 
  • 74 percent of all workers, including 88 percent of those ages 18-24 say poor mental health has impacted their productivity. 
  • 84 percent of workers agree that their mental health is more important. 
  • 40 percent of employers say they are concerned that a lack of social interaction among colleagues will have a long-term negative impact on some workers’ mental health. 
  • And 61 percent of workers want to return to the office full time within six months, while 81 percent say they would return if they still can work remotely for part of the week. 

Putting in mind the downsides of remote work, it is imperative for employers to reevaluate and create new remote work support for employees. Providing better mental health support is not only vital to the overall employee’s working state but also to the bottomline of a company. 

Mental health support: What can you do differently? 

Paying more attention to employee mental health has become a bigger part of the conversation in today’s workplaces. Even pre-pandemic, employers already learnt to be more proactive in identifying symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders. A 2020 Business group on Health survey disclosed that nearly half of large employers in the U.S. train their managers to recognise mental health issues, and an additional 18 percent plan to begin to do so in 2021. Moreover, more than half (54 percent) of employers will offer free or low-cost virtual mental health visits in 2021. 

Remote working is not going anytime soon, even the percentage of full-time remote workers around the world is predicted to double from 16.4 percent before the coronavirus outbreak to 34.4 percent in 2021. With companies going to be fully virtual for the foreseeable future, managers and business leaders, in general, are tasked with the new challenge of prioritising mental health. 

One of the biggest ways employers can support mental health issues during these unprecedented times and beyond is to encourage employees to take full advantage of PTO (paid time and personal time off), mental health days, and vacations. For those who cannot manage to get PTO in fear of falling behind their professional progress, employers can shift their culture and resources to fully support the remote workers. For example, work-from-home stipends and wellness programs are effective in helping employees feel supported and connected to their company. Providing the right stipends can also sustain employee’s job engagement and productivity. 

Other things employers can do to promote wellness for remote workers are to train managers. Train managers, train employees should become a priority for leaders. Business leaders should first ensure their managers meet the requirements, such as having a good mental state. Thus, managers can continuously support their subordinates and look for signs of anxiety and other emotional strain and help address these issues. 

Employers can also establish a mental health services contact, where employees can make appointments beforehand. This can help employees whenever they need assistance. By improving the number of mental health visits that an employee can make, it might greatly help them recover from the stress and burnout. 

Read also: 5 Signs You might be Struggling with Mental Health 

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