Many UK business owners are currently transitioning to remote working in accordance with Government advice to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Along with steps to prepare your staff for remote working, such as introducing secure remote working policies, it's important to take a moment to consider how you can support staff whilst they work from home with aspects such as loneliness and mental health.
Office furniture and stationery suppliers, Viking, recently carried out a survey to find out exactly what freelancers and remote working staff struggle with whilst working remotely. They asked 1,500 workers, half office-based and half remote-workers about everything from the length of their working week to their mental health, hoping to uncover the major differences. From these results, we’ve been able to offer some guidance on supporting remote workers during this turbulent time.
What remote workers struggle with
Freelancing and remote work has its obvious benefits: think avoiding the daily commute, organising child and pet care and more. But the freelancers and remote workers surveyed did highlight some of the aspects that make working from home a struggle. The top five worst aspects of freelance working included:
1. Feeling lonely at work
2. Struggling to switch off from work
3. Working too many hours
4. Finding consistent work
5. Lack of support for mental health issues
As the results show, a sense of loneliness and the struggle to truly switch off from the working day are key themes that affect remote workers. This is where business owners and managers need to step in and take action to prevent staff suffering from these issues.
Working remotely leads to loneliness
It might seem a little obvious to say, but those who work remotely are much more likely to suffer from loneliness, something that can have other knock-on negative effects on mental health. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of freelancers said they suffer from loneliness at work, compared to just 29% of office-based workers.
The effects of this are highlighted in the fact that 55% of freelancers and remote workers said they feel depressed as a result of their job, with just 30% of office workers saying the same. Further to this, 54% of freelance workers also said that their productivity suffers as a direct result of their job role, something that only affects a third (33%) of office-based workers.
Freelancers are also more likely to see negative effects on their quality of sleep, with 60% saying that their quality of sleep is directly affected by work, compared to 40% of office workers. Getting good quality sleep is a vitally important part of maintaining good mental health.
As an employer, it’s important to continually check in on the mental health of all employees, including those who aren’t in the office. Keeping in regular contact with remote workers and asking about their wellbeing is a great starting point. Holding meetings or catch ups via video-conferencing can also help. If it's safe to do so, try to invite them into the office for contact days where they can work amongst the other employees for a boost.
The stress of everyday life
The hustle and bustle of everyday life can be difficult for everyone, and, despite not having a daily commute to take part in, there are still plenty of challenges for freelancers and remote workers. The main concern for freelance workers was their personal finances, with 53% saying that they worry about their finances on a daily basis. This is compared to 44% of office-based workers who said the same.
Although worries over finances are commonplace for many people, freelancers and remote workers have the added stress of their own overheads. Working from home can mean an increase in utility bills, as well as equipment and supplies. For freelancers not on fixed contracts, there’s the added worry of billing and payment, as well as where the next work will come from.
One positive for remote workers came in the form of their physical health. Only 12% said they worry about health on a daily basis, compared to nearly a quarter (22%) of office-based workers.
Lessening the financial burden on remote workers could be solved by ensuring they’re provided with the right equipment to do their jobs. This means they don’t have to go out and buy their own things, from printer paper to pens, adding to their own bills. When it comes to freelancers, ensuring you’re paying all invoices properly and on time will help eradicate some of the stress caused by chasing these up.
How business owners can help
Overall, encouraging employees to spot the signs of mental health issues and burnout is incredibly important. Leaving remote workers to their own devices might seem like a great way to show how much trust you have in them to get the job done, but it can also be a sure-fire way for these symptoms to fester without any action taken to address them. This is particularly true if staff are self-isolating whilst working from home, and may not be able to leave their homes for a period of time.
Try to create a working culture where employees take time out to care for their own mental health and feel completely comfortable approaching colleagues and management with their issues. There’s truly no substitute for open and honest conversation when it comes to looking after your remote workers.
About the Author
Mark Wiggins is a content writer at Viking. Viking is one of the leading office supply and stationery store companies in the world, selling the biggest brands and the most sought-after products in over 11 countries. Further to this, they have a team of in-house business experts who are focused on writing content aimed towards staff engagement and motivation, helping business leaders get the best from their teams.