How To Recognise A Struggling Remote Worker… And Turn Things Around 

While the benefits of remote work far outweigh the negatives, the obstacles of a work-from-home initiative are frequently brought up as to why a full switch might be impossible. However, any negative that could affect remote work is either caused by employers or within their hands to fix.

A successful remote work environment is possible, even with the most modest of budgets. In fact, the strategies used in this article can either be done for free or without much effort.

But what if you’ve implemented all of the remote engagement tricks in the book, and some of your workers are still falling behind? The answer to this question lies both in your employees day-to-day behaviours and how they’re tackling challenges, and how you approach or bring up the subject. 

According to Gallup, 51% of employees are disengaged, while 13% are actively disengaged. If you want to be the exception rather than the rule, you have to pay attention to your employees.

Overworking: Too Long or Too Much

In a remote setting, employees may have a hard time separating work from their personal life. There are a few reasons for this. For one, they mix work with their personal life. For another, employers don’t set boundaries. Finally, the cost of living is high.

Employers can tell an employee is overworking if:

  • Productivity plummets because they can’t get everything done in time.
  • Work quality deteriorates, as they don’t have time to do their jobs correctly.
  • Growth stalls because they can’t attend new training sessions.
  • Customer service declines as employees are too focused on their to-do lists.
  • Employees lose their passion for working and therefore call in sick or leave.

If you noticed any of the above problems, be sure to:

  • Empower employees to say no and speak honestly about their situation.
  • Offer PTOs, higher salaries, or vacation days after a busy season.
  • Encourage work-life balance by creating strict cut-off times.
  • Set proper expectations that don’t encourage overtime.
  • Provide proper training so employees meet productivity levels.

Employers must be proactive to prevent overworked employees. If they have to put in extra time, be honest and transparent as to why. Then, set up a plan that helps them cope.

Low Motivation: No Punctuality or mood Changes

You may think that a poorly motivated worker is the opposite of an overworked employee, but they’re actually different outcomes of the same problem. An underappreciated, overworked, or insecure employee may overwork to get the boss’s attention or disengage entirely and give up.

Employers can tell an employee lacks motivation if:

  • Employees are constantly late or call in sick more often.
  • Changes in attitude result in unkind comments.
  • They lack focus on projects or when speaking to coworkers.
  • Input in meetings becomes rare or nonexistent.
  • There’s a reluctance to take on more responsibility.

If you noticed any of the above problems, be sure to:

  • Keep them engaged with these employee engagement ideas.
  • Get to know your team and become a supportive manager.
  • Communicate goals, offer feedback, and recognise great work.
  • Improve their workplace by offering office supply stipends.
  • Offer career advancements and fair compensation packages.

While a lack of motivation could arise due to circumstances beyond your control (i.e., personal life), try to do what you can to create a work environment that’s supportive and motivating.

Loneliness: No Interests besides Work

Loneliness in the workplace is common whether you’re an in-office or remote employee. But loneliness is difficult to recognise, as most workers will hide their feelings. Workplace loneliness often arises from inadequacy of quality connection to teammates, leaders, and the organisation.

Employers can tell an employee is lonely if:

  • Participation in team-building activities is minimal or nonexistent.
  • Changes in routine, like taking-extra lunches, are apparent.
  • Avoidance tendencies, like a lack of eye contact, are present.
  • They act hostile or don’t apologise when they make mistakes.
  • Small talk topics include work and little or nothing else.

If you noticed any of the above problems, be sure to:

  • Use video conferencing tools and phone calls to communicate with teams.
  • Schedule team-wide or company-wide meetings to help coworkers connect.
  • Create company events that are compatible with a remote lifestyle.
  • Facilitate monthly, quarterly, or yearly in-person visits with staff.
  • Encourage the team to make plans together or work outside of the home.

Psychologists often say that loneliness is a big contributor to poor mental health. If you want your employees to be motivated and engaged in their work, be sure to keep them connected.

Communication challenges: disinterest in Engagement Activities

Remote workers are usually introverts, or they have enough friends outside of work to not be lonely, so they may not need to explore relationships in the office. However, they still need to communicate and collaborate effectively on projects to maintain overall productivity.

Employers can tell an employee is experiencing communication difficulties if:

  • Not all team members contribute, or they’re taking on too much work.
  • Criticism is a hard pill to swallow, and/ or they won’t take responsibility for mistakes.
  • Milestones are being missed because miscommunication is constant.
  • They use too many “I” statements when referring to the team.
  • Lack of clarity on priorities and roles causes conflict within the group.

If you noticed any of the above problems, be sure to:

  • Use remote tools that encourage collaboration, like project management software.
  • Track employee involvement by setting goals and meeting with teams.
  • Ask teams to turn on video chat and screen sharing for engaging interactions.
  • Utilise team management systems that track time and delegate responsibilities.
  • Place focus on a supportive, casual, and friendly company culture.

Some initiatives, like helping your employees get used to taking criticism, will take time. It’s vital to start slow and speak to frustrated workers in a calm, collected manner to avoid disputes.

Timezone/ Culture Issues: Response turnaround, and flouting Policies

Timezone or cultural issues are a natural part of remote work due to the freedom it brings, but they can lead to confusing, tricky, or possibly offensive interactions. Everything from technical issues to holidays can affect productivity, so we must be more aware of cultural differences.

Employers can tell an employee is experiencing timezone/ culture issues if:

  • Their video feed keeps cutting out, or they aren’t responding quickly.
  • You don’t understand why a policy is broken despite them being a good employee.
  • Tiredness or poor engagement is common at scheduled meetings
  • Unavailability falls on “non-holidays,” Sundays, or in the middle of the day.
  • Shyness is sudden or occurs after an argument or difference of opinion.

If you noticed any of the above problems, be sure to:

  • Ask if employees have special requests and accommodate them.
  • Keep key members on a regular schedule and freelancers on a flexible schedule.
  • Know everyone’s immediate availability status using Slack or software.
  • Be patient with non-native speakers and cultural differences.
  • Encourage open dialog and promote tolerance and understanding across topics.

Creating a diverse workplace isn’t an easy task because offense may be given or taken by mistake. However, the benefits are worth it, as diverse teams are more creative and innovative.

In Summary

It can be difficult to recognise when a remote worker is facing work-related or external problems, but it’s very important that employers pay attention to their employees. That way, you can get ahead of the issue, promote a healthy work-life balance, and keep talented employees happy.

Author: Richard Fendler – Head of SEO & Content Marketing, SnackNation

Photo credit: Kaleidico on Unsplash

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