There’s no denying that the acceptance of remote and hybrid working has been embraced by most employees. But, it seems that not everyone believes the shift in how and when we work has been entirely beneficial – especially when it comes to health and wellbeing.
For example, a new report by GRiD found that two thirds of employers (64%) believed that hybrid and remote working has had a positive impact on their employees’ health and wellbeing: however, only 53% of employees agreed with that assessment. Perhaps more concerning though, was the fact that that some employers (6%) and employees (7%) felt that working remotely or in hybrid environments resulted in negative effects on their own wellbeing.
Now, you may think that the number of people who feel that remote and hybrid working has had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing is quite small. But, it’s important to acknowledge that when we consider this in the context of the entire workforce, it represents a large number of employees overall – and it could rise even further.
So, what’s going on?
Remote working doesn’t automatically mean a better experience for employees
The differing opinions from employers and employees about the effects of remote and hybrid working on wellbeing should be of concern to HR teams. Although many employees welcome the flexibility of choosing where and when they work, employers shouldn’t automatically assume this freedom creates a better employee experience. In fact, there’s a real danger that it could have the complete opposite effect.
One of the biggest negative impacts remote and hybrid working can have on employees is burnout. For instance, an April 2022 survey of 32,924 global workers by ADP Research Institute showed that employees worked 8.5 hours of unpaid overtime each week, compared to 7.3 hours before the pandemic. This comes at a time where there’s evidence to show that over the past two years, over 88% of UK employees have experienced burnout. Clearly, the remote working experience isn’t the easy life that some high profile remote work pessimists would have us all believe…
Looking at the broader employee experience, it’s also the case that positive company cultures can take a beating from having a remote workforce. Indeed, in our own report into post-pandemic company cultures, we discovered that 63% of employees believed the traditional physical workspace was an important part of a positive company culture. This feeling was even more evident with employees aged 54 or over, with a massive 85% of them saying that a physical place of work was vital.
Reengaging with hybrid and remote workers
To avoid your employees’ wellbeing becoming adversely affected by working remotely, it’s important HR take a proactive approach. It’s essential that business leaders don’t just take the simplistic view that employees must be physically and mentally healthy just because they work from home or work hours of their choosing: because, as GRiD’s latest research confirms, that isn’t always the case.
So, what can HR teams do to reconnect and reengage with their hybrid and remote workers, and support positive employee wellbeing in the process?
1. Ask your employees
It may sound deceptively easy, but asking your employees for their own thoughts and feelings on hybrid and remote working can help you get to the core of any issues very quickly. For example, you could initiate a pulse survey that asks straightforward yes or no questions such as:
- I feel supported by the company when working remotely
- I have all the equipment I need to do my job to the best of my ability
- I regularly have check-ins with my line manager
- I have a positive work-life balance when working remotely
- I find it easy to ‘switch off’ from work at the end of the day
Ideally, you should then look to ask a follow-up question that includes free text, as this will allow respondents to give further details on why they gave the answer they did. Then, once you have collected your answers, act on the feedback you receive, and look to identify whether there’s more that could be done to support your hybrid and remote workers.
For more info on pulse surveys and the types of questions you should regularly be asking your employees, just follow this link.
2. Consider whether your business needs a Chief Remote Officer
Although hybrid and remote working is now commonplace, many businesses have perhaps struggled to initiate effective workforce strategies to support remote and hybrid employees. This would certainly explain why there is such a disparity between employers and employees when it comes to the perceived positive effects of working in hybrid or remote roles.
With that in mind, it may be worth considering if your business needs a dedicated Chief Remote Officer within your HR team who can focus on the productivity, wellbeing, and engagement of their hybrid and remote teams. This type of role is now becoming more common with larger corporations across Europe. It allows businesses to be more proactive (rather than reactive) when navigating changing work landscapes, and reengage with hybrid and remote workers more effectively, too.
3. Work on creating ‘culture’ moments
Teamwork and collaboration are the cornerstones of strong company cultures. But, it can be tough to foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration if large numbers of your workforce mainly perform their duties off-site or at home. In addition, those who work remotely or spend long periods of time with little human contact or social interactions can be more susceptible to experiencing poor mental health.
This is where you as an HR professional could look at how your organisation can support ‘culture’ moments that will reengage with remote and hybrid workers. These include:
- Encouraging face-to-face interactions – Do all your meetings have to be conducted strictly in a shared workspace or online? If not, encouraging your employees to chat over a coffee in a local café, or going for a walk together, can be just as good for supporting that sense of collaboration and teamwork. Even if your remote or hybrid workers can’t attend every time, having that option is something they may really value.
- Investigate the use of collaborative tools – Shared online workspaces are one way that your remote workers can feel more included in the day-to-day operations of your business. For example, the team here at Cezanne HR – who are now all primarily remotely based – regularly use the shared workspaces available through our HR software. Each space is managed by individual departments, but also provides everyone access to share updates, news and ideas: meaning communication is more immediate and more inclusive for all. You can read more about them here.
- Recognise all the good stuff that goes on – Just because your remote and hybrid workers are ‘out of sight’, the good work they do and contributions to the business certainly shouldn’t be ‘out of mind’. Introducing a simple peer-to-peer recognition scheme is one way that your business can highlight the efforts of your workforce, and ensure that all your workers feel valued for their contributions.
- Highlight the important of regular check-ins – Encouraging your line managers to have regular check-ins – where people can discuss priorities, update others on their progress and seek advice from colleagues – is a great way to ensure no one feels isolated or alone. They’re also the perfect opportunity for your line managers to maintain team spirit, keep everyone focused on their goals and avoid anyone feeling forgotten.
4. Offer upskilling and development opportunities
Did you know that 68% of millennial workers – who make up the majority of the workforce right now – cite a clear path to grow in their role as the most important factor to staying engaged with their work? Although everyone is navigating a cost-of-living crisis, your employees will still likely be considering how they can advance their career: be that with your organisation, or with somewhere else that will…
With that in mind, consider how you can offer upskilling and development opportunities – particularly to those who may be based remotely. For example, for your employees who may not be able to attend workshops or courses in a traditional shared workspace, consider offering online training courses, or time to attend external training courses or seminars.
When employees can visualise a clear trajectory for their career, they’re more likely to remain engaged with both their work and their employer.