You may have already come across the word “remoteliness”. As the word suggests, remoteliness is a feeling of loneliness experienced when working remotely. While remoteliness as a phenomenon has been present amongst workers for a while, it’s certainly been exacerbated by the pandemic and its associated work-from-home requirements.
Without the bustle of an office, people can begin to feel isolated and disconnected from their colleagues. When this continues for a long time – as it is in certain parts of Australia – it can have far-reaching health implications.
As with any type of loneliness, remoteliness health impacts may include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress. Team members experiencing remoteliness may begin to find it increasingly difficult to communicate on any level, while rapidly losing enthusiasm and motivation for their work.
Managers, business owners and team leaders should be alert to signs of remoteliness among their remote workers – and put in measures to avoid team members suffering as a result of it. It sounds simple, of course, but in reality, how do you spot the signs in employees you don’t see in person from day to day?
You don’t need to arrange formal meetings about work schedules each day. It’s more about opening the lines of communication, to ensure members of your team are chatting, even informally. Encourage your team to use apps such as Slack or Google Teams to instant message each other; email can be very formal – it’s best to try and establish an informal chat group, where team members feel comfortable enough to chat and check in, even switching on the video function if they need a personal connection.
Check in with individual team members
We recommend that every manager has a weekly (or, at least, fortnightly) meeting with team members, one-on-one. If a face-to-face meeting in person isn’t possible, arrange to talk via Zoom or Google Teams, so you can still see each other’s facial expressions.
Spend quality time talking about challenges, struggles, achievements and goals, with team-based plans for the future. Include each team member in the business’ future goals, ensuring each individual feels like they’re “part” of something.
It’s been proven that one-on-ones are effective management tools that promote trust and productivity, as well as helping managers notice changes in behaviour (for instance, if an employee is tending towards remoteliness).
Get together in real life
When social-distancing measures allow, arrange in-person catch-ups for your whole team as regularly as you can. You’ll be amazed at the bonds that are formed when team members have an opportunity to socialise outside of a work environment.
Arrange mental-health support
Be proactive about supporting your team. Make a commitment to mental health in the workplace and offer education and training in mental health.
Let your team know that it’s okay to not be okay. Look at implementing counselling through an employee-assistance programme or corporate chaplaincy check-ins. Simple, proactive mental-health support measures go a long way in the workplace.