There’s no shortage of resources for small and medium business owners looking to adopt a remote work model. After all, employing a distributed workforce comes with a number of advantages. These advantages include higher productivity levels, greater employee job satisfaction, and even some considerable savings.
But the thing is, managing from a distance also comes with a set of challenges.
For one, getting everyone on the same page is considerably more difficult when done online. On top of that, not having face-to-face contact with your workers could open up room for some serious health and safety issues.
So what is it that you can do to ensure the health and safety of your remote workers? Read on to find out.
Assessing the Risks of Remote Work
Most workplace safety regulations don’t cover homeworkers. That is, they do not apply to domestic premises. This may sound like good news to employers looking to avoid liability, but to those whose priority is to ensure employee wellbeing, it poses a challenge.
On the whole, the best way to assess the risks of WFH is to look at available data regarding remote employee health.
According to a study published by Hinge Health in June 2020, the two biggest problems related to employee health during the Coronavirus pandemic resulted from:
- Sitting too long in front of a digital screen; and,
- Social isolation due to not having regular face-to-face contact.
This study revealed that:
- 37% of remote employees felt socially isolated;
- 35% felt like they weren’t getting enough movement;
- 33% had trouble achieving a work-life balance;
- 45% stated they experienced back and joint pain from sitting too much;
- 48% stated they were dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Some employers may not see these issues as potential business-growth obstacles. But they most definitely should.
Data shows that poor health (physical and mental) leads to employee absenteeism. And that can cost a lot of money. Moreover, workers who don’t feel well or safe at their place of employment tend to be disengaged, unproductive, and unmotivated, which can all lead to high turnover rates, poor company-wide performance, and, ultimately, poor brand reputation.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, however, business leaders don’t have to accept the downsides of remote work. There’s actually quite a lot they can do to encourage employee health and safety, even when they’re managing from afar.
Here are a few ideas on what you can do to help your employees feel (and perform) better:
- Provide equipment
The simplest solution to the problem of remote employees feeling physically unwell is to ensure they’ve got a comfortable and ergonomic work setup, even when logging in from home.
Yes, ergonomic equipment can be expensive (especially chairs and adjustable desks), but it’s not always necessary. An adjustable laptop stand, for example, can do a lot to encourage proper posture, and it doesn’t have to cost much. Some even go for as little as $20.
- Reward healthy habits
Another great way to promote health and safety among your remote workers is to offer positive reinforcement when they practice healthy habits. For example, if you want to prevent back and joint pain, why not encourage physical movement?
Having a company-wide competition for the person who does the most workouts in a week or walks the most steps can be a fun experience. Plus, it can be a push in the right direction.
Something else you can do to help your remote workers lead healthier lifestyles is to educate them on the importance of taking good care of themselves. For example, a lot of office workers suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome. But, the thing is, not many of them know that it’s relatively easy to deal with.
The same goes for air quality. Everyone knows how important fresh air is, but very few people know how to take proactive steps to ensure they’re spending eight hours per day in a healthy setting.
- Offer Support
Finally, don’t forget about promoting mental health among your remote workers. You can go a long way by simply pointing out the importance of a proper work-life balance and encouraging your workers to take regular breaks (both short and long). But, you can take steps even further by investing in something a bit more impactful.
For example, you could include mental health coverage in your care plan. Or, you could develop a mentorship program that connects experienced employees with new workers. That way, you can establish an effective support system for those who might find themselves overwhelmed by the demands of the job.
It’s true that taking care of staff is far more difficult when you don’t have direct contact with them. But, it shouldn’t be a real obstacle.
If you’re a business leader who takes great care of their workers and wants to ensure their health and safety, you’ll find that there’s a lot to do. But know that every little step in the right direction counts. And, in the end, the person benefiting from their remote workers being healthy, happy, and productive won’t just be them. You stand to gain a lot as well.