Remote Work and Mental Health: How and Why to Strike a Balance?

Pablo Baldomá JonesPablo Baldomá Jones

Pablo Baldomá Jones

Mental Health and Remote Work: How and Why to Strike a Balance?
Companies must offer alternatives to the different demands, focusing on the well-being of each individual in particular.

We are creatures of habit, and the pandemic changed us.

In many ways, the Remote Work revolution helps us by:

  • Increasing flexibility (for kids, friends, sports, deliveries) and happiness.
  • Less time and stress on a commute.
  • Reducing interruption stress and increasing productivity (if you work in an asynchronous-first company, you can choose your working hours based on when you're most productive).

But on the flip side, it can be more challenging to notice burnout on a distributed team.

Before the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed to mental illness as the leading cause of work absenteeism in the world.

Depression and anxiety were the most frequent ailments. However, they were utterly invisible: the employees did not admit them. They did not want to deal with these illnesses, which translated into a negative circle on health and well-being.

The Remote Work Changes in Numbers

According to a Microsoft study, 53% of employees prioritize their mental health and well-being over work compared to before the pandemic. If we focus on Latin America, this number rises to 70%.

As the number of workers embracing flexibility is rising, it is also pertinent to understand that flexible working models only work for some people and professions. Therefore, companies must offer alternatives to the different demands, which should focus on the well-being of each individual in particular.

When we talk about inclusion, the essential thing is that organizations can generate programs and benefits according to what mothers and fathers need in their day-to-day life, what young people require, what seniors seek, and whether to work in flexible mode or 100% remotely.

All strategies must converge on the same point: provide greater well-being.

According to a survey carried out by the financial company WalletHub, 56% of those surveyed said that remote work gives them an "improved quality of life," and 65% said that it allows them to "live more peacefully."

Now, why suddenly are collaborators and companies talking about well-being? Is it that both parties discovered how important it is to be healthy and somewhat calm to be productive?

According to Gartner's 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said flexible work hours helped them achieve higher productivity, and 30% said less or no commute time allowed them to be more productive.

Another critical fact to analyze and plan the evolution of work is that 40% of remote workers say that flexible hours are one of the most significant benefits they enjoy. Although, at the same time, they emphasize that not meeting a schedule is sometimes detrimental to them.

What are Companies Doing to Provide their Employees with Greater Well-being in this Context?

C.S. Lewis was right when he said ¨“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body”. In this sense, we must motivate our staff to care for their physical and mental health. Here are some brief ideas:

  • First, listen and understand what each collaborator is going through in their life.
  • Embrace and share the concept “rest and time off are productive.”
  • Publish and share the company’s Rest Ethic (same as Work Ethic).
  • Schedule time slots without meetings (why not “no meeting days”)
  • Give free afternoons, and even push them to join some useful disciplines (meditation, stretching, mindfulness, dance classes, whatever).
  • Grant free passes to gym chains so their employees can have options to exercise.
  • In Remote-only companies, push people to get together once in a while (1/mo, 1/Q, 1/year) with the team.

The path of professional development requires a delicate balance between technical knowledge and a relaxed mind; both resources allow people to face everyday challenges with creativity and attitude.

If you don't have a “fresh head,” there is no room for innovation or productivity; Therefore, companies must encourage their employees and teams to take care of their minds.

The pandemic taught us the importance of preserving physical and mental health. Now that we gradually get over its effects, we must not put aside this learning.