How can HR address anxiety in distributed remote teams?

Managing remote teams is a nuanced task, particularly when it comes to worker wellbeing...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
How can HR address anxiety in distributed remote teams?
The complexities of managing anxiety in distributed remote teams require careful strategy and planning

Creating engaged, productive, and happy teams is a tricky enough task for even the most experienced manager.

But given most are ‘accidental managers’ – well over 80% according to a Chartered Management Institute study – having had no formal training, it’s no surprise that most struggle with the nuances of leading distributed remote teams.

This is particularly felt in the area of worker wellbeing. Whilst the rise of remote has  coincided with and contributed to the conversation around employee mental health, it’s also left many workers struggling with anxiety and other types of ill mental health. The work-from-home giveth, and the work-from-home taketh away.

Whether it's juggling complicated team dynamics that can no longer be resolved at the watercooler, or spotting signs of stress on a screen rather than face-to-face, the complexities of managing anxiety in distributed remote teams require careful strategy and planning.

What can cause remote worker anxiety?

For all the flexible working promises to deliver, it doesn’t half create a headache for those tasked with implementing it. While remote working can be hugely beneficial for employees who value autonomy and high-trust cultures, poor execution can result in stressful, anxiety-inducing work practices.

In a volatile and uncertain world, some anxieties are inevitable – but many others are not, and could be prevented. If HR and managers can work together to pin down what causes anxiety among distributed workers, they can make sure remote workers are getting the right level of support. Any causes of anxiety-induced disengagement or absenteeism can then be eradicated.

Jodie Dunnington, People Director at SMG, argues that ensuring remote working is hugely beneficial, with employees enjoying improved productivity, a better work-life balance, and a closer connection with their company – provided it is executed properly, - and argues it’s key for people leaders to understand the needs and desires of your people, thinking about what motivates them and what worries them in a remote working world.

Set clear guidelines that address expectations on communication, working hours, and having a clear set of high-performance behaviours to assess performance against

Jodie Dunnington | People Director at SMG

“There are many things that could cause distributed teams to feel anxious, including less interaction with team members causing feelings of isolation; pressure on communication including delays in email responses or time zone challenges; and having days full of video meetings rather than a quick in-person discussion,” explains Dunnington. “Also, not setting boundaries and creating unhealthy habits, whether that’s getting up late, or working past your core hours and running over your lunch breaks, and not having the right technology or kit. We’ve all experienced the joys of Wi-Fi issues.”

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