Millions of Americans began working from home in early 2020 after states around the country issued stay-at-home orders to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and some of the nation’s largest employers have said that they plan to make remote working arrangements permanent for many of them. Avoiding commutes and staying home sounded pretty good to most workers when these plans were first announced, but the reality of working from home has not lived up to their expectations.
When a leading Los Angeles-based staffing firm surveyed 2,800 workers who had transitioned to working from home, 45 percent of them said that they were putting in more hours and 70 percent said that they had started to work on weekends.
A study of data from more than 20,000 companies conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in March revealed that the length of the average workday increased by almost an hour when the nation went into lockdown and workers were ordered to stay at home. This article will explain why remote workers are unhappy, and it will also cover the steps employers can take to make their lives easier.
Isolation, Diminished Collaboration and Burnout are All Part of the Problem
Experts who have studied this issue say that remote workers are missing the human contact they enjoyed when they commuted to offices each day. When an IT provider, TELUS International, asked remote workers how they were coping with isolation and stress, four out of five said that they were no longer able to shut off at night and unwind.
That finding should be troubling to employers because 80 percent of the respondents also said that they would consider quitting their jobs to take a position with a company that was more concerned about their mental health.
Employers are facing these problems at a time when markets are in turmoil, consumers are becoming more concerned about the economy, and more COVID-19 restrictions may be on the horizon.
With issues like these to contend with, it is not surprising that employers are not paying as much attention to the wellbeing of their remote workers as they should. Problems that are not addressed in a timely manner tend to get worse, so employers that want to hold on to key people should take action sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, there are some things they can do to take action.
Show Them You Care: the Five Keys to Employee Happiness
Now, let's take a look at five actions you can take that go a long way toward increasing your employee's happiness and job satisfaction levels:
Watch for Signs of Burnout
Conduct Regular Wellness Checks
Provide Options for Child Care
Communicate More Effectively
Provide Better Processes for Employee Onboarding
1. Watch for Signs of Burnout
Burnout was one of the nation’s most pressing workplace issues long before the pandemic gripped the world. Workers experience burnout when their professional and personal lives are out of sync, and working from home blurs these lines and makes the problem worse. Burnout tends to develop over time, so employers should watch for its warning signs. These signs include:
Bursts of anger
More frequent mistakes
2. Conduct Regular Wellness Checks
The best way to find out how workers are feeling is to ask them. Many employers gauge worker happiness by observing how team members behave during meetings, but this does not go far enough. People who are coping with serious mental health issues often become withdrawn in group environments, which makes them reluctant to speak up about their problems.
Speaking with workers on a one-to-one basis is a far more effective approach, and it should be done at least once a week. Making deadlines more flexible and lowering performance targets are two ways to reduce pressure and stress among remote workers, but just letting them know that somebody cares about them is just as important.
3. Provide Options for Child Care
Kids as well as workers were ordered to stay at home during the pandemic, which left millions of Americans to cope with additional child care and home-schooling responsibilities as they adjusted to the realities of remote work. Employers cannot relieve remote workers of this burden, but they can make it easier for them to bear. Employers should make sure that their workers know about the free resources that organizations like the Khan Academy and Scholastic offer to stay-at-home parents. They should also look for ways to ease the workloads of parents with young children, such as offering flexible work hours.
4. Communicate More Effectively
One of the biggest problems remote workers face is not being able to ask colleagues simple questions about things like their duties and paychecks. When chatting with a human resources manager over a cup of coffee is no longer an option for stay-at-home workers, employers should take proactive steps to make sure that they have the information they need.
This can be difficult when human resources departments are also working remotely, but outsourcing solutions like HR Complete from Horizon Payroll Solutions can fill the void. HR Complete makes life a lot less stressful for remote workers with tools like:
Updated job descriptions: Workers feel less pressure when they know what is expected of them. Revising job descriptions to reflect the challenges of working from home makes it easier for remote workers to adjust and shows that their employers care about them.
Revised employee handbooks: Much of the important information in employee handbooks becomes useless when the managers and supervisors who administer HR programs are no longer available to answer questions. When employees are ordered to stay at home, their handbooks should be revised to cover matters like filing workers’ compensation claims for injuries that are suffered in the home and monitoring hours and overtime worked in remote locations.
HR Concierge: Supervisors and managers are being asked questions by remote workers that they have never heard before. HR Concierge is a live-chat feature that allows program administrators to get answers to these questions almost immediately.
5. Provide Better Processes for Employee Onboarding
Employee engagement is one of the keys to attracting and keeping talent, so it pays to have effective onboarding processes. Unfortunately, onboarding an employee can be costly and time-consuming, but you don't have to do this in-house. Horizon Payroll can provide completely automated onboarding services, such as real-time personnel hiring progress reports, secure onboarding form submissions, government compliance forms (along with your company's specific internal forms) and more. Plus, check out our ebook, Onboarding: Doing it Right the First Time.
Evolving Solutions for an Evolving Workplace
Horizon Payroll Solutions was founded by HR professionals to help employers cope with an increasingly complex regulatory environment and get the most out of their workers. Our products are constantly being updated and revised to address emerging challenges like the struggles faced by remote employees, and we prefer custom solutions to a one-size-fits-all approach. If you would like to learn more about HR Complete or any of our other products, you can use our online form to ask questions or request a demonstration.