by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
Working remotely can definitely be less stressful than working at a traditional office or job site. The morning commute is much easier, save for those times when there’s a traffic jam by the refrigerator when you’re getting the creamer for your coffee. You save money on “work clothes” as you can work in your pajamas if you want. Heck, you don’t even have to shower most days!
But if you think that being a remote worker is some kind of stress-free paradise, think again. For those leading remote teams, it’s important to understand and recognize the causes and signs of stress so that your employees don’t burn out or become unproductive.
This is a challenge for many leaders since, while their employees might be working remotely, they’re with the rest of the leaders at “mission control.” When you’re going through the typical worker’s routine: fighting the morning commute, getting settled at the office, etc., it’s easy to lose sight of the different challenges your remote team members might be facing.
Working from home v. working at multiple locations
Not all remote workers have the same setting. Many remote workers have offices within their homes, but many are remote simply because the nature of their jobs require them to be away from the office. Sales professionals, quality control monitors and construction supervisors are just a few examples of remote workers who, while they may not be in the office, aren’t working from the confines of home.
A report from the International Labour Organization in Europe found that these multiple site workers are far more prone to negative health outcomes like insomnia because of their often unpredictable schedule. These workers tend to work longer hours than their in-office counterparts and are twice as likely to report stress on the job than those who work in cubicles.
Those who work from home aren’t immune to job-related stressors either. Remote workers who work from their homes are more likely to feel disconnected from their coworkers and to experience physiological problems related to sub-standard ergonomics.
Paying for Lack of Productivity
The ILO also found a threshold (about 50 hours a week) remote workers cross where their productivity dramatically declines. Since these workers already report working longer hours (and remote workers in general struggle with establishing boundaries) this a very real risk facing leaders of remote teams. At best, you’re paying good money to people who aren’t delivering what you’re paying them for. At worst, you’re establishing a vicious and expensive cycle of burnout and employee turnover.
Solutions for Leaders of Remote Teams
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your remote team members limit their job-related stress and be more productive in their roles.
- Keep people in the loop. Using video-conferencing and chat software can aid in making your remote workers feel connected as part of the team. These tools allow them to communicate directly with co-workers and prevent the establishment of communication channels that have to flow through the leader. As you might imagine, this can also lower the stress levels for the leader, too when he/she isn’t having to funnel all that added information.
- Plan team activities. Often remote teams can get “siloed” into subsets, only connecting with the people they need to complete a specific project. Intentionally plan activities (they don’t always have to be purely professional) that offer team members throughout the organization to connect. By doing that you increase the “big picture” buy-in and allow each team member to gain valuable perspective about how their piece fits into the overall organization.
- Hire the right fit. Working remotely isn’t for everyone. Make sure when you’re hiring that you find individuals with the necessary autonomy, trustworthiness and technical skills necessary for remote work. Deficiencies in these area are going to be breeding grounds for stress, both for the worker and the supervisor.
Do you need help learning to lead your remote team? Whether it’s an individual course or achieving your Remote Leadership Certificate, we have virtual workshops that can help you improve your leadership skills. Whatever your need, we’re here to help. Contact us today so we can help you become the Remarkable Remote Leader you’re meant to be.