The two sides of homeworking: the need to effectively manage remote workers

A recent survey by health and wellbeing provider BHSF, conducted with employees who work at least two days from home, found overall that workers appreciate the benefits that homeworking offers. When asked how working from home makes them feel, the top three responses were:

  • free (50 per cent)
  • in control (47 per cent)
  • calm (46 per cent).

The two sides of homeworking: the need to effectively manage remote workers

At a time when mental health in the workplace is a major priority for HR departments, these results would indicate that more employers should consider extending flexible working to a greater proportion of their workforce, in order to help manage stress levels and give employees more control over their working day.

The grass isn’t always greener

However, the picture of working remotely isn’t entirely rosy. A significant number of those surveyed chose more negative words to describe their feelings. Just over a quarter said that working from home made them feel remote, 24 per cent felt isolated and 21 per cent lonely. Employers need to be aware of these negative feelings associated with working remotely, and should take steps to make homeworkers feel included and part of the business.

In the same survey, BHSF found that 25 per cent of employers had made no special adjustments, such as arranging regular face-to-face meetings or providing relevant equipment, to make remote workers feel part of the team. By isolating these individuals and failing to implement the correct management support, employers could be missing out on the benefits of homeworking, including increased motivation and productivity.

Ways to support homeworkers

Further figures reveal that older workers, aged 51 and over, are the group that feel the most lonely and isolated. This generation are likely to have had years of experience working in an office. Moving from the social environment and network of an office to working alone may be a difficult transition for many to make. Employers need to be aware of this adjustment, so should consider putting extra wellbeing support in place for these people, such as more frequent catch ups with their line manager.

Interestingly, workers in their 50s feel significantly more ‘in control’ than those in their 30s (54 per cent compared with 42 per cent), which could reflect greater experience, meaning that they are more self-confident in their abilities.

The figures reveal that homeworking appears to be particularly beneficial for women. 50 per cent said it made them feel calm, compared with 39 per cent of men. More than half of women also said it made them feel free. With many women juggling responsibilities outside of the workplace, this suggests that they value the ability to work more flexibly to fit around their lifestyle.

Employers looking to improve poor mental health in the workplace should take note of this and explore whether encouraging homeworking may have a positive effect, particularly for their female employees.

The need for effective managment

Dr Philip McCrea, Chief Medical Officer at BHSF, said: “The results of the survey clearly show that it is not enough to simply offer flexible working to get the best out of employees.

“Employers must look at how they manage remote workers effectively, supporting their specific health and wellbeing needs to ensure that they get the most out of these employees.

“If implemented in the right way, home working can have a significant positive effect on employees’ mental health.”

This article was provided by BHSF.

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