Remote Work Best Practices for Improved Productivity & Mental Health

By Kellie Rondon on Aug 08, 2023
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Since the pandemic showed us that working remotely was possible, it’s been one of the top “asks” of employees. And while workers may think that working remotely is good for their mental health and productivity (for many, it is true), recent research tells a slightly different story overall. 

The Integrated Benefits Institute, a nonprofit research organization, analyzed U.S. Census Bureau household data and Anthem Health claim information to draw the following conclusion: fully remote and hybrid work is associated with an increased likelihood of anxiety and depression symptoms, as compared to in-person work. While the difference was arguably small (40% likelihood for fully remote, 38% for hybrid, and 35% for in-person), it was statistically significant. 

In this article, I'll share the remote work best practices and strategies proven to help successful managers establish a culture of mental well-being while employees are working remotely or in a hybrid environment.

remote work burnout

The Link Between Productivity & Mental Health

The relationship between workers’ mental health and their productivity is well established. The American Psychiatric Association released data showing that workers suffering from depression are 35% less productive than their counterparts.

Considering the effect of depression on absenteeism, medical care costs and lowered productivity overall, the APA estimates that depression leads to a hit to the U.S. economy of $210.5 billion annually. 

According to the McLean Hospital Organization, employers can help, and it pays off for both parties—in fact, 80% of employees who received treatment for mental health issues showed improved productivity and satisfaction in their work following their care. Depression prevalence and mental health symptoms can be significantly mitigated and/or reduced by implementing measures to ensure employees have an appropriate work-life balance. 

RELATED: How to Engage Remote Workers >>

Three Remote Work Best Practices to Help Employees Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

  • Plan breaks for employees to chat with coworkers

When working in-office, we often take small breaks to socialize with coworkers and catch up about our lives outside of work.

When working from home, those small social breaks take the form of scrolling through Facebook and Instagram instead. It’s no secret that heightened social media use can be bad for an individual's emotional well-being, especially when someone is already spending much of their time alone working remotely. 

To combat this for your employees, consider organizing virtual socials. These should be optional to attend and ideally would occur during the workday for periods of 15 to 30 minutes. Employees can filter in and out of the virtual “room” as they have time and get to know each other in a less formal setting. Each virtual social might have a theme to get the conversation going, such as sports, reality TV, summer travel plans or pets. 

RELATED: Three Tips for Recruiting an Increasingly Remote Workforce >>

  • Encourage healthy boundary-setting

Remote workers often suffer from a blurred line between work and home life. The fact that a physical boundary generally doesn’t exist at all can make it hard to psychologically disconnect when working hours are over.

Encourage your employees to set boundaries between work and home life, and to avoid overworking. This can be accomplished by asking employees to set “working hours” and sticking to them unless it’s absolutely necessary to complete a project outside of defined times. 

fostering emotional intelligence in your remote workforce

  • Implement an EAP 

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a confidential program that is free for employees and helps them work through personal issues they face in their day-to-day lives. While EAPs have a great reputation for their usefulness in helping employees through major life events (like substance abuse, grief, or family health problems), they also are wonderful resources for building routine stress management skills.

The goal of an EAP is to get employees back to a mentally healthy baseline, so they can get the assistance they need without having to sacrifice their jobs. Your professional employer organization (PEO) can help you set up an EAP for your employees today. 

RELATED:The Many Benefits of an Employee Assistance Program >> 

  • Lead by example to revamp your well-being culture 

Managers have more influence over their employees’ well-being than they think. According to a 2023 study by the Workforce Institute (covered in Forbes), “managers impact employees’ mental health more than therapists and as much as a spouse or partner.”

Start by showing your employees that you, as a manager or business owner, are capable of observing healthy boundaries and value work-life balance yourself. Communicate often and openly about the importance of mental health and balancing workloads and check in with your employees often to see how they’re faring. 

Looking for more ideas for encouraging a healthy work-life balance? Check out our blog post: 7 Ways to Ease Work-at-Home Employees’ Stress

Certified PEOs: The Successful Small Business Owner's Best-Kept Secret 

Choosing a PEO is an important decision, and it’s critical to find a partner that’s perfect for your business. Axcet HR Solutions, a certified PEO, is available to handle your full range of HR needs, from employee benefits management to HR compliance, to all the many facets of employee relations strategy including remote work best practices. 

If you have an HR dilemma, Axcet has a solution. Schedule a free consultation today to see how we can help your business. 

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Written by Kellie Rondon

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