Steve Kemler on Keeping Remote Workers Happy, Healthy & Productive

Some new remote workers are struggling to keep pace—here’s how you can help

There’s no question COVID-19 is changing the way we work. A significant percentage of the workforce shifted from in-office to work-from-home within a matter of weeks. Now, millions are working remotely—and we’re just now beginning to see some of the unique benefits and challenges surrounding everything from productivity to employee satisfaction to the ongoing mental health of these new telecommuters.

Productivity in a work-from-home market

Many feared a sharp decline in productivity on the heels of this mass shift to working from home. Working from home immediately eliminates certain personal connections—those “water cooler chats” have been replaced by impromptu Zoom calls and all-day Slack sessions, and popping into a conference room to tie up loose ends is no longer an option.

Even so, experienced remote employees are often more productive at home. Three in five established remote workers say they’re more effective out of the office. And given the average American commutes about 100 minutes per day, millions suddenly have more time to dedicate to work and personal commitments. For many, that’s a win.

That said, those suddenly displaced on the heels of COVID-19—people accustomed to working from the office, now forced to work from home—are struggling more than their established counterparts. Nearly one-third of new remote workers say they’re finding it tough to be as productive from home.

The impact on employee satisfaction and mental health

But it’s not just a question of productivity—for many employees and employers it’s also a question of satisfaction and, even, ongoing mental health. Twenty-three percent of these new remote workers say they’re dissatisfied with their current work arrangement. Close to half say they feel less of a sense of belonging than they did when they were in the office daily.

Part of this, though, should shift with time. Seventy-two percent of experienced remote workers say they are satisfied with their arrangements—more so than they were when they reported to an office every day.

Granted, today’s newly-minted remote workers are dealing with extenuating circumstances—not only were they pulled from their established routines and environments with little notice, many are now juggling added commitments from their home offices. Millions of new remote employees are now homeschooling their kids during the day, with no childcare to help ease the burden. This along with the COVID19-induced stress and anxiety many are feeling can make working from home more difficult than it would be under “normal” circumstances.

Strategies for supporting remote workers

To help employees be more productive and feel better, Steven Kemler, an entrepreneur with extensive call center experience, believes companies should focus on creating professional connections and finding simple ways for teams to feel engaged and valued. Steve believes that even basic collaboration tools can have a significant impact on employees’ sense of belonging and productivity. Slack users, for example, are twice as likely as non-Slack users to feel a sense of belonging while working remotely—and they’re one-third less likely to consider loneliness a workplace challenge.

Beyond that, be sure to focus on confidence-boosting behaviors. Regular check-ins, for example, are an easy way to help team members feel connected and heard. Also, be mindful of tone. While it’s easy to fire off an email between calls or other tasks, often this is your employee’s only connection to you all day or, even, all week. Ensuring your messages are thoughtful and productive will keep employees feeling positive—it’s easy to misinterpret a hastily-written email or one-word response.

Work doesn’t look the same—and, likely, it won’t for the foreseeable future. But the latest wave of remote workers can and, no doubt, will adjust to this new normal—and when they do, many will recognize the benefits and added productivity, just like their experienced remote work counterparts. For now, employers can help accelerate those benefits by providing opportunities to engage and connect, and ensuring teams feel valued. With that framework in place, we’ll all be a step closer to an even more productive and satisfied remote workforce.