The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many workplace trends that were already developing before the coronavirus changed the world. Perhaps the biggest trend was in remote and distributed work. By the fall of 2020, almost 65% of salaried employees and almost 50% of hourly employees were working remotely.
The remote/hybrid work trend has continued in 2021 and will likely become a permanent part of the business landscape in the future. While many workers welcome this change, there can be negative aspects to remote work. Gallup reported that loneliness and isolation are a particular problem for employees who work remotely. If your company has established a remote or hybrid model, it’s important to maintain a healthy, positive workplace so employees can remain adaptable and efficient in their work.
A Healthy, Positive Workplace for Remote and Hybrid Teams
According to the World Health Organization, a healthy workplace aims to improve the safety, health, and overall well-being of its workers. A positive workplace promotes the goals and growth of its employees. Put together, a healthy and positive work environment encourages the success of its workforce and, in the long term, the success of the business.
When your workforce is in-person, it’s easier to establish and maintain a healthy and positive culture. However, it’s possible to prioritize health and positivity among your employees, regardless of where they are located, as long as you take steps to address the challenges that your remote workers may face.
To ensure your employees are healthy, you need to cultivate wellness at work. There are individual, environmental, and organizational factors that come into play:
- Individual factors focus on employee needs, such as receiving information on a healthy lifestyle and access to medical care, as well as other health services. Even though employees are remote, they need healthcare and information. This was especially important throughout the pandemic and remains important going forward.
- Environmental factors focus on the physical work environment. These factors ensure that healthy choices are supported, and resources are provided, to encourage healthy behavior, such as stocking the break room with healthy snacks and drinks. For a remote work environment, environmental factors include having a quiet, private space for your home office, and ergonomic chairs or keyboards. It may also include a monthly stipend for healthy snacks, or to make up for the absence of employee lunches.
- Organizational factors include the active commitment of business leaders and business policies to support healthy behaviors. This can range from offering flexible work options to making the workplace smoke-free. In a remote work culture, organizational factors include ensuring a work-life balance (it’s easy for remote employees to work extra hours or go long periods without taking a break), and addressing the isolation that can come with a remote job.
On top of cultivating a healthy workplace, it’s also important to focus on generating positivity in your remote workforce. Qualities of a positive workplace include:
- A work-life balance: make sure your remote employees are clocking out at a specific time of day and taking needed breaks. It’s easy to check work email 24/7, so encourage a healthy separation from work tasks.
- Opportunities for growth: employees should be encouraged to grow their skills and strengths. Even remotely, employees can advance in their field and be supported to gain certifications or deeper knowledge.
- Positive reinforcement and thinking: a team-wide positive outlook begins with your company’s leaders. Management plays a role in cultivating positive thinking, and employees should be praised for their work. Positive reinforcement helps encourage a supportive and motivated culture overall.
- Team members who are empathetic and compassionate: emotional health is important at all times, even when your team is remote. It’s essential to have empathy as a foundation of your work culture and to ensure that employees feel understood and supported, especially during challenging times.
- Communication that is open and honest: in a remote workplace, communication is essential to keep employees on the same page, and that any changes that occur are implemented smoothly. Open channels of communication ensure connection and collaboration between employees.
It’s possible to establish these healthy and positive influences across a completely distributed workforce. You may have to rely heavily on technology, but you can create a healthy, positive workplace for remote and hybrid teams.
Tips for Building a Strong Remote/Hybrid Team
Prioritize Mental Health and Empathy. Empathy is a key aspect to emotional health and overall well-being. When managers and other workplace leaders have empathy for what employees are going through, this not only improves employees’ work experience, but has a positive impact on their lives overall.
A period of change or a challenging event provides an opportunity for leaders to become even more invested in their employees’ welfare. Leaders should practice patience and understand that it can take a while to get used to a remote or hybrid work environment. In these times, prioritizing employees’ general well-being, especially their mental health, is an essential aspect to a positive and healthy workplace culture.
Communicate Regularly. A successful remote or hybrid team depends on good communication, and communication doesn’t always have to be about work. It’s important to schedule regular meetings, either with the team as a whole or one-on-one, and it should be encouraged in these meetings to talk about life outside of work, just as people would if they were face-to-face. This helps employees feel supported and encourages connection.
On top of this, work with your employees to implement a communication schedule that is beneficial for them. Some people may prefer an hour-long meeting once a week, while others would rather have short meetings each day. If managers can meet with each team member based on their preferences, this further supports a healthy, positive work culture.
Build a Sense of Connection and Belonging. Even though your team may be physically separated, they should still feel a sense of belonging. Cultivate connection and collaboration with your remote or hybrid workforce by establishing a cooperative environment and with positive reinforcement. Encourage employees to stay in touch with each other and schedule team activities. For example, when the pandemic hit, some workplaces implemented virtual happy hours so employees could still hang out with each other.
Positive reinforcement allows you to reward employees for their contributions, and positive reinforcement is still possible with a remote workforce. Some examples of positive reinforcement that remote or hybrid employees can receive from their leadership include:
- Team activities such as lunches or happy hours (which can be done remotely if necessary)
- Other work perks, such as gym memberships or monthly stipends for food
- A company-wide email acknowledging individual efforts and praising employees for their hard work
- Gift certificates or gift baskets
- A work bonus or pay raise
How to Cultivate a Healthy and Positive Culture for Your Remote Workforce
Even though your workforce may be remote, cultivating a healthy, positive workplace is just as important as it would be if you were all in the office. Remote workers still:
- Collaborate and creatively brainstorm together
- Rely on each other for support and feedback
- Want to feel as if they belong and want to get along well with their coworkers
- Feel supported from upper management
- Align a lot of their identity and overall happiness with their job
While it may seem easier to support your workers when they are in the office, it’s still possible to support them when the entire team is remote or on a hybrid schedule. By cultivating overall wellness, implementing consistent communication, and ensuring your employees feel connected as you support their physical and mental health, you can establish a successful culture for your remote workplace.
Need More Information?
Many companies face the challenge of adapting their work models and culture as it becomes clear that remote and hybrid work are here to stay. Find out more about successfully managing remote employees or download this FREE eBook today to discover tips on how to ensure your organization is inclusive in the new world of remote work.