The way we work is changing, but how is that change affecting the mental health of our workers? Employee wellbeing should be at the heart of every forward-thinking organisation, so let’s dive a little deeper into remote working and wellness.
Remote working is fast becoming an industry standard for previously office-based employees. Employees are looking for a more modern approach to work, and who wouldn’t love flexible hours and to avoid the daily commute? What’s great is that innovative organisations are more than happy to meet this demand, thanks to the increased productivity, decreased utility costs, and greater access to in-demand skillsets on offer.
While both organisations and their employees do stand to benefit from allowing remote work, could it have hidden negative effects on employee wellbeing?
What Do We Mean by Wellbeing?
When we say wellbeing, what we’re talking about is the grouping of our ideal physical, financial, and mental states. When it comes to workplace wellbeing, mental health is the most commonly featured of these aspects – which is no surprise, seeing as the CIPD’s Mental Health at Work report revealed that 39% of employees reported experiencing poor mental health symptoms related to work in 2019.
But as with our wellbeing when we’re not at our desks, there’s a lot more to keeping employees happy and healthy. Keeping a watchful eye on how they’re feeling – and implementing the systems to support them – will surely maximise the benefits of remote working for your employees.
Remote Working and Mental Health
A 2019 study by Owl Labs found that remote workers are happier in their jobs than on-site workers, by a margin of 22%. Why is that? Well, there are many aspects of remote work that could lead to happier, healthier employees, such as increased flexibility away from the rigid 9 to 5 structure that most workers are used to, plus increased concentration without the distractions of a busy office.
One of the biggest advantages is definitely no more commuting – the average UK commute is almost half an hour each way, and that’s without train delays and traffic. Thankfully, when working remotely, commuting is limited to switching on your device.
Without that morning pressure, employees have more free time for a lie in, to spend time with children, or do a spot of restorative yoga – sounds pretty good to us!
Meanwhile, financial stress is a growing concern for UK workers,, but being able to save money that would have been spent on fuel, car park fees, or public transport can also go some way towards improving mental wellbeing.
Keeping the Body Healthy
The advantages that come with remote working don’t stop at the mind – in fact, you could say the benefits run top-down, as statistics show that remote working can have a positive impact on not just your mind, but also your body.
Rather than grabbing lunch from a nearby supermarket or fast food restaurant, for example, remote workers can eat healthier as they’re more likely to prepare healthier food in their own kitchens. A CoSo Cloud survey found that 42% of remote workers thought they ate healthier at home than at the office, without the communal biscuit tin to raid.
Skipping the daily commute also allows remote workers are able to free up more time for exercise, unlocking many physical health benefits. Another bonus that comes with free time is increased sleep, that works wonders for physical health.
Office-based environments often double up as breeding grounds for germs, something that has become quite the trending topic in light of the ongoing Covid-19 situation. Working out-of-office protects employees from the spread of nasty colds and viruses, meaning they call in sick much less often.
The Negative Effects of Remote Working
Unfortunately, every silver lining has a cloud, and remote working is not all sunshine and rainbows for all employees. While increased freedom, more spare time, flexibility, and money saved are wonderful benefits, they can also come at a cost. Here are some of the downsides that come with working from home:
- Loneliness and isolation: employees can sometime struggle not being around other people
- Overcompensation and guilt: employees are more likely to work longer hours in order to “give back” to their employer for allowing them the freedom to work from home. Additionally, employees might feel pressure to prove that they’re actually working, as there’s no one overseeing what they’re doing.
- Possible cyber security risks: employee could be accessing company data using an unsecured network – making them a popular target for cybercriminals (though that can be prevented).
Maximising Wellbeing for Remote Workers
OK, so remote working hasn’t been perfected yet; the benefits still far outweigh the challenges organisations might be faced with. One of the biggest challenges is looking after employees, but there are straightforward solutions to that:
- Communicate and support: utilising secure communication apps like Microsoft Teams can help employees feel connected. Hosting IRL meet ups can also help remote workers feel like part of the team.
- Separation and structure: ensure employees don’t feel pressured to work longer hours or be contactable out of hours.
- Maximise device security: a strong BYOD policy allows employees to use their preferred devices for work, while having the freedom and privacy they need for out-of-work use.
All in all, it’s no surprise that remote working is popular with employees. Whilst organisations who embrace this aspect of the Modern Workplace are benefiting from an enhanced pool of potential skills, the team can make the most of the mental and physical advantages remote working makes possible.
To maximise these benefits, however, organisations need to be ready to support and secure their employees – that way, everyone’s a winner!
Looking to introduce remote working without giving your employees – or your IT team – a headache? You couldn’t ask a better team. Get in touch to find out more about the secure remote working possibilities on offer.