Remote Workers Feel Increased Stress, Need More Employer Support

At Home Stress

If remote work is going to be part of the new normal, employers should consider ways they can address the stress that comes along with it.

Fully two-thirds of U.S. employees now work from home at least part-time, according to the reviews platform Clutch. While many HR leaders expect to shift more of their workforces into remote arrangements, several reports indicate they must provide additional training and support if they want at-home workers to turn in an efficient performance.

Even before COVID-19 forced organizations to increase the number of employees they had working from home, research demonstrated that remote workers were often saddled with additional tensions.

While the remote workforce grows, employees say the need additional training and support if they're going to turn in their best performance. #HR #HRTech Share on X

Remote Work’s Challenges

A 2017 study by the U.N. International Labour Organization found that while remote workers were more productive, they also risked working longer hours, faced work-home interference and “higher work intensity.” In 2014, the Journal of Science and Medicine reported that both men and women were significantly more stressed at home than they were at work.

Today, fully 66 percent of U.S. employees work from home at least part-time because of the pandemic, Clutch said. Forty-four percent do so at least five days a week, up from 17 percent before the virus hit.

Nearly half of those workers—47 percent—find remote work comes with certain benefits, such as reduced  commuting and flexible schedules. However, little things turn out to be challenging. For example, 33 percent find it more difficult to get simple questions answered, and 27 percent are frustrated by frequent interruptions.

Stress as an Organizational Issue

Cultural issues come into play, as well, said a report by online assessments provider Questionmark. The company found that many employees lack the skills they need to work productively when they’re remote.

For example, workers are often left to master video conferencing, collaboration tools and other new technologies without formal training. After getting the hang of the tools, they face the unfamiliar personal dynamics that come with using digital communications. They’re unprepared for miscommunications and tensions that often arise when people depend on video or audio calls.  

On top of all this, workers in general are having increased difficulty focusing on their jobs.

A survey by Colonial Life found that nearly 40 percent of employees report being distracted by having high or moderate levels of daily stress. Financial matters were the top cause (21 percent) followed by work itself (20 percent), family health (17 percent) and personal health (13 percent).

And while 45 percent of U.S. employees feel burned out (1 in 4 because  of COVID-19), only 36 percent say their employer has taken steps to address how the feel, said management consultant Eagle Hill Consulting. Almost as few, 34 percent, said their employers are increasing flexibility, while 26 percent said communications were improving. Just 20 percent say they’re provided with mental and physical wellness resources.

“Employee burnout was a problem before the coronavirus global pandemic, and now the risks of burnout are painfully acute during this crisis,” said Eagle Hill CEO Melissa Jezior. “The mistake many leaders make is treating burnout as a personnel issue when it’s really an organizational issue.”

Jezior said it’s in employers interest to create cultures that are supportive and geared to avoiding burnout, even when the world’s not in crisis. “Ultimately, the costs of burnout are high—from low productivity to mistakes to high turnover,” she said.

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