Work-from-home jobs in the past were diamonds in the rough. Landing one meant experiencing the chance to skip the commute, be closer to your family, and relax in the comfort of your home. This was a chance that many could only wish for. When 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many people got their wish as a vast number of companies were forced to quickly transition to a remote workforce to satisfy social distancing safety guidelines.
While the transition was abrupt, most companies were able to make the change, and many are likely to keep a remote workforce due to the perks it provides the company. Namely, a reduction in utility costs, better accessibility to employees with disabilities, and a chance for their business to stay afloat during uncertain times. Still, while it is an arrangement that seems to benefit all, there is one negative factor that cannot always be anticipated — and that is workplace stress.
The good news is that company management can do their part to help mitigate this stress and create a more satisfied and inviting workplace. Let’s look at the issue and what can be done.
The Negative Effects of Workplace Stress
As a company, creating a stress-free work atmosphere should be the top priority. Businesses that put this necessity to the wayside will quickly see a decline in productivity and worker enthusiasm. If they do this, businesses can expect an increased likelihood of stressed workers calling out of work or even quitting their job. While this loss of employees can harm your company by requiring further efforts to hire and train new employees, it can additionally cause decreased employee morale.
Stress among anxious employees can manifest itself in physical ways and cause harm to the recipient in the form of increased blood pressure, rapid weight loss or gain, and damage to internal systems in the body. If a worker is experiencing this, they may call out more often for doctor visits and request additional time off of work.
One of the most common side effects of stress is lack of sleep. If employees aren’t sleeping, there can be a noticeable impact on their job performance due to sluggishness and lack of enthusiasm. A lack of sleep can also affect their focus, which could lead to an increase in errors in their work.
Stress can also negatively impact employee communication, which is the cornerstone of any business, even a remote business. People that are stressed out or depressed can sometimes lash out at others or not respond at all. Every company needs a team that works together, so for this reason and the others discussed above, it is important to tackle stress head-on for a happier staff and management team.
Understanding Triggers of Workplace Stress
To create a stress management plan for your employees, you first need to understand what can trigger these unwanted feelings. While many people like the idea of working from home, the sudden transition from the office to their bedroom will likely be jarring for many workers. An uncomfortable work environment can be defined in many ways, and to some, it can create feelings of isolation that come with working outside of an office.
For others, however, a common trigger for anxiety and stress could be the relationship between workplace peers. Instances of sexual and verbal harassment are still an issue in the world, even in a remote workforce, and if an instance is not reported, it could create stressful or unhappy feelings in an employee. To ensure that harassment does not escalate, management and human resources should have an open-door policy where all complaints are taken seriously, and offenders are punished per company guidelines.
Although many will say that money isn’t the key to happiness, it can certainly affect an employee’s stress levels. As a business leader, you may find this to be more common today due to the increased financial burdens many are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. While your company can only pay based on income and business activity, make sure to have annual reviews with all employees and provide a raise if their performance warrants it.
If their efforts are less than satisfactory, then create a training program that can help them get back on the right track. This not only provides them an opportunity to earn more money with the incentive of a raise, but employees will also feel valued knowing that the company has their best interests at heart.
How Management Can Help
The best way a company can best address an employee’s best interests is to be proactive and avoid stress from becoming an issue in the first place. For a remote workforce, it is important to reduce the possible chances of employee loneliness by maintaining regular contact with the team. Check-in on them and see how they are doing. Keep them up to date on current company initiatives and how the business is doing during these difficult times. Be honest with them, and they will respect you for it.
Whenever possible, these meetings should be done through video calls so everyone can see one another and receive the connection that remote employees deserve.
If you are hiring new employees directly to a remote position, then consider creating a buddy system of sorts where new hires are paired with experienced employees who can show them the ropes and provide support. This will help them feel less alone, and with better guidance, the new employee can learn the tasks faster and more efficiently.
Management can also look at some of the more challenging industries in the world and take examples for their team. For instance, nursing can be a very stressful job as they deal with sick patients, complicated medications, and long hours. To keep their wits about them and avoid stress, many nurses turn to unique solutions like aromatherapy and daily meditation. Your employees would sincerely appreciate your recommendations on some of these practices along with any other resources you can provide.
Programs and Flexible Schedules
One of the resources you can provide is your benefits program. As a company, take a look and determine what you can add or modify to encourage a healthy and stress-free work atmosphere. Exercise and healthy eating can do wonders to reduce stress and keep a person in high spirits. You can take advantage of this by leaving room in your company’s budget for gym memberships or creating an incentive in their health insurance that will create lower premiums for employees who meet certain health thresholds. Every once in a while, host a healthy employee lunch when everyone can leave their homes and spend some time with their coworkers.
Your company also needs to provide opportunities for your workers to take a breather, so they aren’t focused on work 24/7. Ensure that you provide vacation days and encourage employees to take them, so they can spend time with family and friends and come back refreshed. If their issues require more than what vacation time can provide, you should also provide resources for professional counseling so your employees can talk out their problems.
While remote work offers many benefits, the fact that employees are already at home and left to their own devices can lead them to unintentionally work longer hours and forget to step away from their desk during the day. Nip this in the bud right away by creating structured working hours with ample break time so everyone can establish a healthy schedule.
You might also consider restructuring the workday entirely by implementing a seven-hour workday. Researchers have found that this can be the most productive length of time for an employee to be on the clock, and the shorter day will provide the work-life balance that your employees sorely need.
While working from home surely has its benefits, workplace stress can still happen anywhere. By taking a proactive approach, management can create a happy and helpful work environment that will benefit your workforce for ages to come.