Mindfulness and wellness benefits were many employers’ answer to the mental health strains imposed by the pandemic. But a new survey suggests that they don’t go far enough.

The real biggest well-being challenges, according to employees? Stress and burnout won that competition. 54% of respondents said the biggest mental health issues during the pandemic have been work-related. That’s not an issue a mindfulness app can help an employee work through. Instead, employers and HR teams need to take a look at their remote-work management practices. It’s possible that what worked in office isn’t working with home work.

Always On, Always Working

Most experts attribute the frequent burnout rate employees are suffering to the always-on attitude many remote workers have taken. Is this a concern as many companies shift to long-term remote work? Work expert and author of The Burnout Generation, Anne Helen Petersen, thinks not. Instead, she attributes burnout to lockdown and the lack of mobility employees are currently experiencing due to the pandemic.

In her recent Substack email “Imagine Your Flexible Office Work Future,” she writes about the difference between working from home during a pandemic and working from home during normal times:

“When we’re no longer confined to our homes, just think of all the options that will open to you. . .You can go work in a library, or a co-working space, or a park, or a different co-working space. What matters is that it will not be you, in your home, alone — unless you want it to be.”

So let’s say that your company is moving into long-term remote work post-pandemic. Will the end of lockdowns and the reopening of public spaces cure employee stress overnight? Not alone. Helping employees build lasting strategies for work-from-home in the long-term should still take into account the real dangers of overwork and burnout. That’s where the HR team comes in.

New Management Strategies for Remote Work

If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s that keeping remote employees productive without work practices that push them into over-stressed, burnout mode is going to take more than a wellness app. Companies who have been coasting without a new management and productivity model will be playing catch-up; companies which had contingency programs in place will need to consider how they can be made permanent.

Companies should consider what managing remote workers is about: helping employees become productive and staying that way. They should also note what it isn’t: surveillance and productivity monitoring tools which cause additional stress and encourage burnout.

As early as March 2020, several weeks before widespread lockdowns hit North America, Gartner recognized the need for employers to consider alternate programs for remote work. In the article, trusting employees is emphasized heavily. “Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” said Aaron McEwan, Vice President of Gartner. “Worries about employee productivity are often overblown.”

Instead of a daily focus on when and how employees are working, they suggest focusing on the outcomes of projects, and reviews of productivity. More recommendations from Gartner: Giving employees the tools they need to do their jobs, reinforcing company values and showing that you’re looking out for them, increasing recognition, and working with clear objectives so that everyone is on the same page.

Communicating Incentives and Benefits

One of the best ways to encourage employee engagement is, of course, reminding them of what the company has to offer them. Ensuring that the benefits and incentives available are easy to access and well publicized remains an important tool. Are your employees taking advantage of everything your company has to offer?

Make it easy to communicate about their benefits and engage your employees with a better benefits administration platform. Click here to see the many ways WBD can transform your employee experience.

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