Mental Health and Remote Work: Are Your Remote Workers Mentally Healthy?
Every week a few new articles appear — either touting the mental health benefits remote work provides for employees or bewailing the mental health dangers of allowing employees to stay fully remote. As with most complex issues, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Choosing whether or not to allow employees to work remotely hinges on a lot of factors, not just mental health. However, keeping your workforce’s mental health at top of mind should be part of the package, wherever they work.
Remote employee mental health risks do differ from on-site employee risks in several key ways, and recognizing this can be a good first step when looking at the pros and cons of remote work.
How Does Remote Work Affect Mental Health?
While in-office employees often cite their schedule, commute, friction with coworkers or managers, and workload as common mental health stressors, for remote employees that picture shifts somewhat.
Remote employees are often more mentally stressed by feelings of isolation or loneliness if work was their primary source of adult human interaction. They may also encounter struggles carving out an appropriate workspace in their home, or finding suitable flex-work spaces nearby.
Impact of Remote Work on Mental Health
The impact of remote work on mental health can also vary widely based on the employee and the situation.
Poor time management leads to stress
Some remote workers find that their productivity decreases away from the office. Lower productivity can lead to trouble completing tasks or hitting deadlines, causing more strain on mental health. However, proponents of remote work point to this being a time management issue, not caused by remote work, but simply exacerbated by a lack of routine.
This is why identifying candidates with the right skillsets for remote work is critical to thriving with a distributed workforce. Employees with strong time management skills and a focus on task completion can perform better in a work-from-home environment and thrive in regard to their mental health. Managers can also put processes in place to help keep disorganized employees on track
Inadequate work-life balance leads to unhappiness
Remote workers may also find that maintaining a work-life balance is harder when working from home. This can lead to higher levels of mental stress and even eventual burnout. Supporting remote employees with clear policies around their rights to non-interrupted time outside of work hours is critical, as is minimizing interruptions to their workday.
Constant interruptions lead to frustration
One study found that remote workers attend more weekly meetings, with 14% of remote workers dedicating time to more than 10 meetings per week. This can be highly disruptive to remote employee's processes, and this goes double for those in a different time zone.
Using recorded video calls to share information that doesn’t require real-time communication can cut down on work derailment or disruption of after or before-hours life for remote employees.
Remote Work and Mental Health Statistics
If you’re looking to prove that remote work is simply the best, or seeking to show it’s the worst-case scenario, period, it’s always possible to cherry-pick statistics from well-respected sources:
Pro remote work:
A whopping 97% of people say that having a more flexible job would have a “huge” or “positive” impact on their quality of life. (Mental Health America & FlexJobs survey)
Employees who regularly work remotely are happier and stay with their companies longer than on-site employees. (Business Insider & Owl Labs survey)
Telecommuting offers multiple benefits, according to surveyed telecommuting customers. (PGi)
- Improved stress levels: 82%
- Enhance morale: 80%
- Heightened productivity: 70%
- Reduce absenteeism: 69%
Against remote work:
40% of employers say they’re concerned that a lack of social interaction among colleagues will have a long-term negative impact on some workers’ mental health. (Safety and Health Magazine & Aetna survey)
37% of work-from-home employees in one survey said they feel isolated and concerned about their performance. (Healthe Systems & GetAbstract survey)
40% of remote workers have to adjust their work hours around the schedules of others and are more likely to report two or more new physical or mental health conflicts. (Hive & Journal of Occupational Medicine Report)
Supporting Remote Worker Mental Health
Obviously, it’s not as simple as “remote work is good” or “remote work is bad” when it comes to employees’ mental health. Most employees say they want to remain remote at least part of the time, with full remote the preference for working moms and those with long commutes.
However, it’s also true that depression and associated behaviors are up among some work-from-home contingents. The best things employers can do are reach for that much-needed flexibility, and provide mental health support to all employees, no matter where they work.
If a fully remote workforce is on the table, mental health problems can also be headed off via the recruitment process. Seek out employees who have the appropriate personality, motivations, and soft skills to thrive away from the office, and hire managers who understand how to run a remote team.
How Crosschq Can Help
- Crosschq 360 can help employers identify a worker’s capacity for time management and gauge whether their personality will allow them to do well in a remote position.
- Crosschq Analytics can help employers identify who in their current workforce is performing well remotely, and find indicators of what makes a great remote employee.
- Crosschq Recruit can deliver candidates who are ready to work, motivated, and pre-vetted so you can find the perfect match for your remote or management role.
Ready to fill your workforce with employees who are eager to work remotely? Request a demo today.
From pre-hire to post-hire, Crosschq helps you source, screen, onboard, and measure the best talent. Fast.
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Topics from this blog: Remote WorkBack