When 2020 began, nobody expected that the luxury of working remotely, which used to be enjoyed by the few, would soon become a necessity, even a means of survival. Then, the pandemic hit. Fast forward to today, 62% of employees aged 22 to 65 say they work remotely at least occasionally, while 16% of companies globally are fully remote.
In the IT community, we've all got used to enjoying the perks of working from home. These include saving time on long commutes, greater flexibility, and choosing where you live because you’re not tied to a city or region to name a few.
But to rephrase the legendary Charles Dickens, remote work can be the best of times, and it can be the worst of times. There are several downsides of working from home to take into account, one of the most noticeable ones being: how remote work affects our mental well-being.
Remote work and mental health: what are the risks
Here's the truth – working remotely for long periods can take a toll on our mental health. Studies show that even before the pandemic, 22% of remote employers found it difficult to unplug after work, 19% suffered from loneliness, and 8% had difficulties staying motivated.
Covid-19 only intensified these problems. Researchers from the Royal Society of Public Health confirmed that amidst the pandemic, 67% of people felt less connected to colleagues, with 59% feeling more isolated and 37% of respondents admitting sleep problems. Mental health issues affected everyone working remotely – IT professionals, freelancers, and high-level executives alike.
Here are some of the most common problems remote workers face when it comes to mental health:
Loneliness from social isolation and lack of colleagues
Stress due to lack of management skills
Depression caused by a lack of measurable career progress, and many other concerns.
The good news here – with the right approach, mental health doesn’t have to suffer. And as a tech recruitment partner, we also know that remote work is here to stay. For example, in North America, it's predicted that as high as 25% of all professional jobs will be remote by the end of 2022. According to data researchers at the Ladders, remote work opportunities will also continue to increase through 2023.
The question is: how do we make the best of remote work so that working from home can be sustainable in the long run?
How to support the mental well-being of remote IT professionals
Compiling our years-long experience as a tech recruitment agency, we've created a quick 6-tip checklist on how to support the mental well-being of IT professionals working from home. These tips will come in handy for employees in other industries as well. Take a look!
Tip 1: Encourage and promote healthy self-care habits
Make sure your team knows practical tips on how to take better care of their mental health when working remotely. Promote these recommendations so that all remote workers in your organization are informed about the basics, like why it's important to:
Stick to a schedule
Take regular meals and breaks
Create a comfortable working environment (comfortable chair, desk, lighting)
Unplug from work at the end of the day
Tip 2: Promote socializing within the team
Look, we know. Not all IT professionals are known for their love of chit-chat and small talk. But even the most introverted people need social time and having the occasional heart-to-heart with a colleague. It's essential to communicate and engage with each other to avoid feeling isolated at home. Encourage messaging programs, online games, virtual water coolers, video calls, and regular calls to stay in touch with teammates. But remember to avoid pressuring teammates into communicating with each other.
Tip 3: Encourage time off and mental health days
Everyone needs vacation time from time to time. Make sure your organization empowers employees to set boundaries and take personal time, instead of pressuring them to keep on pushing through deadlines. A mental health day can also be a good idea to help remote workers reduce stress and burnout, and provide a much-needed pause so that employees can come back more energized and relaxed.
Tip 4: Lead by example
People believe it when they see it – and the same goes for believing the company supports mental well-being when they see their managers follow the same set of rules. Senior partners and managers can set an example by taking the time off themselves. This will let employees know mental health is a priority, not just a pretty bulletin point in the team newsletter.
Tip 5: Set a well-being budget
If your company finances allow it, set up a well-being budget and encourage employees to make use of this option. A well-being budget can also include financial support in setting up a proper and ergonomic home office.
Tip 6: Have a mental well-being policy
According to a 2021 survey by the American Psychiatric Association, only one in five employees reported that their employer has offered additional mental health services since the start of the pandemic. Change the conversation around mental health. Ensure open communication with your team to let them know they can come to their organization for support. Make sure there's no stigma around the mental well-being topic in the workplace by creating a mental health policy where all important topics on mental health days, self-care habits, and other aspects are covered.
Supporting your team's mental well-being for workers both in remote positions, as well as in the office shows your organization truly cares about your employees. This, in return, is one of the most effective methods how to attract and retain the best IT professionals. As a global IT recruitment agency, we've seen it work many times.
So we hope these tips inspire you and come in handy when putting together the best team, be it in IT or a completely different field. For more IT recruitment tips, make sure to read our blog, or reach out to us if your organization wants to hire the best IT professionals.