How to avoid presenteeism with a remote workforce

With many employees now working remotely and with hybrid workplaces on the rise, the traditional office set-up is becoming a thing of the past.

How to avoid presenteeism with a remote workforce

However, many remote workers are finding that, as a result of our ‘always on’ culture, working from home is making it harder for them to set healthy boundaries. Instead, it’s encouraging ‘e-presenteeism’ whereby individuals feel that they need to be online and available all hours of the day.

Presenteeism can manifest in many different ways. Employees working longer than their contracted hours, continuing to work when they’re ill, and feeling like they have to respond to emails outside of working hours are some examples. The result? Employees that are overworked, overwhelmed and at risk of burnout.

In fact, research from LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation shows that the pressure to be available means people working from home are, on average, working an extra 28 hours per month.

Working long hours can be detrimental to employees’ mental health and morale, and in the long run, is counterproductive for both the employee and employer. It’s therefore vital for businesses to do all that they can to tackle presenteeism, support their employees’ wellbeing, and ensure they are maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Here are a few ways you can do this:

1. Encourage your employees to take annual leave

As many people are spending more time at home now, they often don’t feel it’s justified to take time off to relax unless going away on holiday, as they aren’t physically travelling to their working environment.

This isn’t a new problem. According to research by Canada Life Group Insurance, one in five (22%) UK employees did not use all their paid holiday allowance in 2014, with one in 20 stating that this was because their organisation actually discouraged workers from taking the time off. Although this research is six years old, it’s still very relevant to today’s working culture and a common trend among employees who are reluctant to take their full entitlement for fear of losing favour with their managers, which raises concerns about attitudes towards employee wellbeing.

Whether it’s one day or two weeks, time off is key to feeling well and operating well. It’s therefore valuable to remind and encourage your employees to take annual leave. You could even scout out the individuals who haven’t taken any annual leave in the last month, for example, and suggest they take a day off soon. Having time away from work to disconnect is crucial for your employees’ wellbeing. They can rest, recharge, regain a sense of balance and come back to work feeling motivated and engaged.

2. Schedule one-to-one check ins

It can sometimes be difficult to identify indicators of presenteeism, but they often include low productivity, poor standard of work, looking physically tired, and frequently working through lunch breaks, into the evenings and on weekends.

The problem becomes even harder to identify in larger organisations, which is why it’s so important that it’s on your managers’ radars. They need to be keeping an eye on their team members and doing regular check-ins to make sure that individuals are feeling ok and working in a way that’s not damaging their mental health or wellbeing. Ensure your managers promote a working environment where employees feel they can openly talk about their health, both physical and mental, and raise concerns about their workloads if necessary.

3. Set boundaries

Working from home or remotely gives employees the opportunity to be flexible about their schedule. However, it doesn’t mean they should be switched on 24/7 and replying to emails well after their working day has ended. It’s therefore important to separate the professional from the personal when home becomes your office.

First, make it clear that employees aren’t expected to work beyond their usual hours unless essential. You should also encourage employees to take regular breaks away from the screen, like they would at the office, to stretch their legs and get some fresh air throughout the day.

Second, reinforce the value of creating a routine, sticking to it and ensuring that work is left at a set time each day. Encourage employees to do something concrete to signal the end of the working day and differentiate between work and home time.

4. Provide wellbeing support

Research has shown that the key causes of presenteeism are poor mental health, financial wellbeing and sleep. So, consider the ways in which you can tailor your wellbeing approach to address these three areas.

There are a variety of services and tools you can equip your employees with to demonstrate the importance of employee wellbeing within your business. For example, Employee Assistance Programmes offer confidential advice, mental health support and more, teaching individuals how to manage stress in both their personal and professional lives.

It’s also in your best interest as an employer to help your employees feel financially healthy and secure. There are a range of financial resources, planning services and debt management tools available to help your employees manage their money more effectively. Look at these resources as preventive measures to help your employees maintain a healthy work/life balance.

5. Improve your culture

While the actions previously discussed are valuable, in isolation they will not make a huge difference to the levels of presenteeism in your workplace. Your culture is the key area to focus on at all times. It’s important to create a culture with the health and wellbeing of your employees at the centre. That way, if an individual feels unwell, they’ll know that it’s right for them to take the day off sick. They know they won’t get judged or challenged by senior members of the team.

One way to do this is by encouraging managers and senior members of your team to lead the way and set a good example. Allow them to demonstrate healthy boundaries within the workplace, by switching off from work and taking breaks when they need to.

Final thoughts

Remote working comes with lots of challenges, and as your employees adjust to this change in working environment, it’s important to encourage them to set the same boundaries they would if they were working from the office. We deliver a wide range of useful health and wellbeing tools and services through our employee engagement solution, the zone, so your employees have access to the tools they need to secure and maintain a healthy work/life balance.

This article is provided by peoplevalue.

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