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Remote Workers Are Cooped In and Pooped Out

Over the past year, working remotely, whether as a choice to socially distance or a consequence of mandated COVID restrictions, has had its challenges. Intermittent or inadequate cell phone and Internet disconnects conversations mid-sentence and virtual meetings midstream. Pets and family members distract and disrupt. Home projects and repairs intrude on home office space. Home deliveries demand signatures.

Morning and afternoon “sacred times” (to drop off and pick up kids, run errands, get to medical appointments, etc.) have been replaced by non stop, online meetings that often begin before sunrise and end after sunset.

Working remotely doesn’t factor in the once annoying but now sorely missed walks between meeting spaces. Gone are the natural office breaks to grab a cup of Joe, head out to a business lunch, or simply loiter at the copy machine to catch up with peers.

The monotony, lack of scenery change, and social isolation can drain even the most ambitious and dedicated workers and result in lowered productivity and performance. With Summer just around the corner, the pull of the outdoors may be the breaking point for cooped in and pooped out remote employees.

Tune Ups so Remote Workers Tune In

If you’re looking for fresh and fun approaches to support your valued remote employees – without sacrificing presenteeism or productivity – consider implementing these three simple strategies to keep your workers engaged and encouraged:

1. Allow flexible work hours

With many workers walking mere steps rather than driving long miles to their office, it’s possible for them to jump on a zoom call just seconds after brushing their teeth or minutes before sitting down to dinner. An eight hour day can feel like a forty hour week. If it’s possible for your business model, consider offering:

  • Four ten hour workdays to give employees a longer three day weekend.
  • Earlier (or later) starting times as some employees do their best work before others are up or after others have closed down for the day.
  • Longer mid-day breaks to give employees an opportunity to walk the dog, dedicate undivided attention to kids attending online school, make lunch, or run an errand without “sneaking out.”

2. Allow flexible work spaces

Not everyone can stay focused (let alone stay fit) when sitting in the same chair facing the same screen, surrounded by the same walls for the entire work day. Consider stretching the “office” space to include just about anywhere WiFi or cell connections are available. Employees will appreciate being able to work from:

  • Any room in the house – or even on the front porch or back deck – where a change of scenery can boost the mood and stimulate the brain.
  • A quiet public space where they can work alone without being alone.
  • A “socially-distanced” group work space that allows for in-person collaboration in a comfortable setting.

3. Allow flexible time off

Many of the places and activities employees save their paid time off (PTO) for are currently unavailable or unpredictable. Travel, dining, and organized recreation is still limited and difficult to plan ahead. Rather than require employees to block out of the office (OOF) days on their calendars well in advance, consider loosening up the use of PTO by:

  • Allowing employees to take partial PTO (hours rather than days) to help break up the remote working doldrums.
  • Offering “short notice” PTO that affords employees to take advantage of unexpected good weather or gaps in projects, as well as to manage unexpected caregiving needs or other pressing family matters.
  • Extend a planned PTO on short notice so employees can be OOF a day or two longer than originally planned without guilt or negative consequences.

Flexible Work/Life Arrangements Keep Remote Workers Engaged and Productive

You may have noticed that all three of the above recommendations incorporate “flexibility”. Survey after survey report that, next to receiving fair and equitable compensation and health benefits, workers value flexibility in their jobs. This flexibility includes when and where they work, as well as having paid and/or unpaid time off to take care of family, deal with dilemmas, or simply rest and recharge.

Offering Employees Flexibility Works!

Of course all the above suggestions are based on an implicit trust between the employer and the employee. But isn’t that the driver behind employee benefits in the first place – to reward workers for their dedication and hard work.

For more on “flexible” benefits your employees will love, check out W3LL’s take on ICHRAs.


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