Blog - Building Remote Work Policies to Support Collaboration and Mental Health | Nuwave Talent

Building Remote Work Policies to Support Collaboration and Mental Health

When given the chance, an astounding 87% of workers take the opportunity to work flexibly. That’s the word from a 2022 McKinsey survey. Even as Covid-related policies wind down, remote work remains a key point in the emerging trend for more flexible employment opportunities. It’s also one of the top three reasons workers look for a new job. That said, some managers have raised concerns about remote work’s impact on employee collaboration and mental health. Here are a few pointers to consider when building remote work policies to support a healthy, happy workplace.

The Continued Imperative for Remote Work

  First off, it’s important for organizations to accept that at least partially-remote work is here to stay. Even as larger organizations like Disney bring workers in-office for more days of the week, office use is down overall. The New York Times notes that, “Financial service firms reported 59 percent daily office attendance in late January [2023], according to the partnership. The tech industry, by contrast, was at 43 percent.” While this is up from previous recent measures, it’s still far from pre-Covid levels.

Mental Health Impacts

  This may be in part because employers are recognizing that remote or hybrid work can have positive impacts on employees. Even though concerns about loneliness and decreased collaboration have their place, hybrid and remote workers report less burnout and more satisfaction about their work-life balance than their fully-in-office colleagues.

  Additionally, employees from underrepresented groups have spoken about how many feel more psychological safety in work from home arrangements, as it can help shield them from experiencing as many microaggressions. Others note they feel they are judged more on the quality of their work, rather than personal, subjective in-office interactions.

Collaboration Impacts

  Similarly, remote work can support asynchronous collaboration–a collaboration strategy that has been shown to support creativity and safety for employees. These asynchronous setups can help protect women and people from underrepresented groups from being spoken over, criticized, or otherwise shut down. This psychological safety in turn can allow more creativity. One study found that asynchronous work increased positive assessments of women’s work by 17%.

  Projects that require a lot of quick iteration or person-to-person collaboration, are not an appropriate fit for asynchronous collaboration. However, remote or hybrid work can still support team collaboration with the right tools and policies in place.

Creating Policies and Programs to Support Healthy Remote Work

 While every organization must build remote work policies and programs that are a fit for their particular goals and culture, we recommend including these four factors when building your policy–project and people management, scheduling, healthy habits, and belonging.

Project and People Management

  First, your policy should include some practical guidelines on how your organization will handle project and people management. There is no need to micromanage, but create frameworks that managers can use to set reasonable expectations for employees.

  Boundaries on working hours and communication turnaround times should go both ways between employees and management. Every team will have its own internal needs, your organization policies should encourage negotiation of clear expectations on project timelines and communication hours. If expectations are not met, how will this be resolved?

  Spurring written expectations for these issues at the department or project level should help ensure that all employees are treated fairly, whether they are working in or out of the office. This can also prevent HR challenges if management conflicts do arise.

Scheduling Details

  Another important detail to consider for remote work policy is coordinating and documenting scheduling. This may sound mundane, but standardizing it can bring a sense of order and calm for both managers and employees.

  Your policies should fit your organization and its people. So, consider, what scheduling tools should be used? How will managers and employees document schedule changes? Do you want remote and hybrid arrangements to be fixed or open to change when large projects come up? How will your organization ensure that all employees have equal accommodation for their remote or hybrid work requests?

  Ideally, your policies will support employees’ mental health by empowering them to work where and when they are at their best. The need for synchronous team collaboration may mean this is not always the case, but its certainly a worthy goal. Healthy, forward-thinking workplaces are able to balance organizational goals with employee goals, ultimately supporting increased retention and team diversity in the long-term.

Support Healthy Habits

  Your organization may also want to consider policies that support your employees’ health, wherever they work. While the pandemic and an increase in remote work may have shifted these statistics, approximately 80% of large employers offered employee wellness programs in 2019.

  These programs will reward employees for forming healthy habits. Previous employers have used financial or social incentives to support employees’ health, from taking up a new exercise routine to eating healthful foods. And while some research has found that there’s a strong selection bias in on-site wellness programs, they can still help your organization attract and retain talent.

  If your organization chooses to pursue health incentives, consider creating policies that specifically extend and adapt these benefits for remote workers. It’s a wonderful way to establish your organization as a great place to work. It’s also a great way to build a healthy company culture and demonstrate genuine care for your employees.

Foster Inclusion and Belonging

  Lastly, and very importantly, your remote and/or hybrid work policy should support inclusion and belonging in the workplace. We’ve written about the importance and benefits of supporting purpose and inclusion in the past. The long and short of it is, supporting inclusion and belonging is good for society, employees, and organizational success.

  Using your remote and hybrid work policies to support DEI can look like providing family and health accommodations above and beyond baseline Federal or State policies. For many people, family extends beyond the “nuclear” or marital family structure. Ensure that employees who are unmarried or are living intergenerationally get the same accommodations as their counterparts.

  Remote and hybrid work policies can also support inclusion by encouraging management to establish team building practices. Depending on your organization’s culture, this might include in-person gatherings, psychological safety training, or old fashioned ice breakers. One thing is clear, however, employees appreciate intentional effort on this front. A recent McKinsey study found this to be true across members of all the demographic groups they interviewed.

  In short, remote and hybrid work is appreciated by employees and, with good policies in place, can support team collaboration and employee mental health. Taking steps to encourage good people and project management, establish scheduling procedures, and support inclusion and belonging can help your organization attract and retain great talent.

By clicking on the button on the side, you accept our privacy policy