COVID-19 and the need for safe distancing have accelerated the adoption of remote work arrangements by companies and it is likely to remain an option even after the pandemic is over. With more employees working from home, it has become harder for managers to detect the voice and facial cues of someone who needs support. There can be obvious signs of burn-out, fatigue or lack of engagement that are not picked up due to the lack of face-to-face interactions. Thus, when working remotely, managers and businesses need to be extra vigilant in checking in on team members, and being available with caring for mental health.
Recognize the warning signs
Stress can manifest itself in a number of ways, including decreased satisfaction and commitment, lower productivity, increased personal conflicts, and a desire to disengage and disconnect. Employees may feel like they can’t admit they are burned out because it feels like a personal shortcoming or shows a lack of commitment. To get around this issue, astute managers will pay attention to changes in employees’ attitudes which may indicate a deeper issue. In a remote environment, this may mean explicitly asking employees about their mental state. This can include, for example, encouraging connections beyond work matters.
Take something off their plate
High performers are high performers for a reason – they take on a lot, and accomplish a lot. But eventually, even the most productive person can reach a breaking point. Recognize any early signs of stress, and relieve your busiest workers of certain roles or duties that can be reassigned. Everyone has a finite amount of hours in the day, and productivity without burnout requires strategic cutting back on the activities that consume energy.
If managers show optimism, their teams will too. As an article in Harvard Business Review shared, optimism is powerful and contagious. Attitude starts at the top and can set the tone for a difficult project or a remote team that needs positive encouragement. Leaders who demonstrate hopefulness and confidence in the future are better able to help their team members find meaning and purpose in work, especially under stressful conditions. Using humour can be a useful mechanism to relieve tension and foster greater commitment from teammates.