The opportunity to work from home has become as omnipresent as workplace pensions or complimentary gym memberships on many job descriptions. It’s also been estimated that 88 percent of technology professionals consider flexible working arrangements more important than any other working benefits, with 60 percent preferring such to a 5 percent salary increase.
The focus on better work-life balance probably has a lot to do with this shift in priorities. These days, retaining good people isn’t always down to offering a bigger paycheck, but in giving them the freedom and the space to do what they need to do to get the job done, among other things.
Remote work certainly offers a great deal of flexibility by default, but that doesn’t mean that telecommuters don’t get stressed out. You see, the trouble with working from home is that sometimes, it gets hard to draw the line between personal and professional matters, ironically making a good work-life balance difficult to achieve.
So, the question now is, how could you as an employer build a healthier working environment for your remote team? Here are some suggestions:
1. Provide good health insurance coverage.
Health insurance is still a rarity in many remote working arrangements, so if you can offer your employees a good health plan, that would be a great incentive for them to stick around.
Go for a healthcare plan that would suit your staffers’ specific needs. If a lot of your workers are aged 50 and above, for instance, you can try offering a package with preventive benefits like colonoscopies and prostate exams. Wellness benefits like access to a therapist (even one online) and even something as simple as gift certificates to a local spa would also be most welcome.
The bottomline is, offering a good health plan as part of your compensation package shows that you care about your employees’ well-being, and that is a sentiment that they are likely to reciprocate.
2. Consider offering access to gyms or other exercise facilities.
Another health-related benefit remote employers can offer is free memberships to local gyms if they happen to hire people living in the same country. Otherwise, you can provide an allowance for a few hours at the gym on top of everyone’s paycheck.
Obesity and the lack of vitality can be an occupational hazard for many telecommuters due to the sedentary nature of the job. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat this, and it’s also a guaranteed stress-buster, so enabling your workers to sweat it out is not only good for them, but it also means they’ll get sick less and thus be more productive. It’s a total win-win.
3. Establish clear objectives.
While telecommuting is undoubtedly a dynamic field, a well-organized company structure and consistency is also important. Knowing what to expect and who to defer to in certain matters gives employees a sense of structure, which in turn, gives them stability and lessens their anxiety.
As with any job, things like tasks, responsibilities, and compensation figures should be laid out on the table from the very beginning, and should also be constantly reinforced and evaluated for effectiveness from time to time.
4. Encourage employees to take their vacations.
This is especially relevant for start-ups or new companies, where many workers often feel unspoken pressure to toil away past regular working hours.
Many companies stick to the traditional two weeks’ of paid leave, but fourteen (14) days is hardly enough time to recover from the stress of the other 351 days in the year. In the remote working world, telecommuters don’t always avail of that either, as many end up working on local holidays because they have to follow their foreign employer’s work schedule.
So, be sure to remind deserving workers of their right to take a break every now and then, especially after a major project has been completed. Encourage your managers to do the same also, so that your employees will see that it’s okay to rest for a bit whenever the need arises.
5. Allow for short breaks.
Speaking of breaks, it’s also advisable to make allowances for a few short ones throughout a work day.
The human body simply wasn’t designed to sit and stare at a glaring computer screen for 8 straight hours, so make allowances for meals like lunch and dinner, as well as short breaks they might need to pick up their kids from school or just to take a breather.
6. Be a good role model.
Employees look to their manager’s behavior to gauge what would be acceptable in workplace. If they notice that their superiors still answer emails or messages even when they’re supposed to be on vacation leave, they might think that the same is expected of them.
This is definitely not a favorable outcome if you want to keep morale high, so establish a culture where the boundaries for each person’s personal time is respected and upheld. Queries, updates, and conversations pertaining to work should be done within the proper time, so refrain from initiating such outside working hours except in urgent emergency cases.
7. Consult your employees.
Finally, don’t neglect to check in with your workers about which benefits they would really appreciate. Your remote staff is likely to be comprised of people with individual needs, so it’s important to get their two cents’ before you make any far-sweeping changes.
Such discussions will take time, so it’s best to regularly incorporate them into the schedule either as a group or with one-on-one conversations. It would also be advisable to carry them out annually, semi-annually, or quarterly, depending on the size of your workforce.
Telecommuting is a game-changer, for sure. It’s allowed many entrepreneurs to start companies on shoestring budgets and to source the best talent from all over the world without worrying about tedious concerns like work visas or permits. Furthermore, remote work has leveled the playing field for job applicants who were always relegated to the bottom of the pile because of age, a physical handicap, or the sheer responsibility of having to raise a family.
What remains paramount, however, is the need to put your people first so that they’ll do the same for you and your company.