Imposed during the 2020 confinements, teleworking highlighted the psychosocial risks (PSR) associated with this work mode. Anxiety, hyperconnectivity, isolation, management difficulties… so many pitfalls that can be avoided if companies create the ideal conditions beforehand. For readers of the Talkspirit blog, clinical psychologist Brigitte Vaudolon reviews best practices for anticipating the risks associated with remote working, whether imposed or not.
For more than twenty years, Brigitte Vaudolon has been working in companies on issues related to well-being in the workplace. A clinical psychologist and EMCC certified coach, she has witnessed the emergence of psychosocial risks for several years; she’s also qualified as a psychosocial risk counsellor by the DIRECCTE. Her firm Be Positive assists employees and companies to prevent and respond to them.
Remote working, whether chosen or imposed, brings advantages for employees and companies by providing flexibility. But it is important to ensure that the needs of each employee are taken into account so that teleworking does not lead to any unforeseen problems or difficulties, and to support the implementation of good practices over the long term.
1 – Staying in touch with employees
“It may seem obvious, but in many companies it’s not: remote working still requires keeping in touch with your employees. This includes team meetings, but also informal moments of exchange (such as calling an employee to check up on him or her, or sharing a coffee break on a collaborative tool via videoconference). During the lockdown, many employees stayed in pyjamas all day long, and even stopped shaving or putting on makeup. These are important warning signs,” says Brigitte Vaudolon.
2 – Discussing the work environment
“I advise employers and managers to openly discuss the topic of remote working with each employee. Do they have a closed office? Do they share their space with a spouse? Does he or she have problems connecting to the Internet at his or her home?
Getting information on these very concrete points allows us to understand how the person experiences remote work—its possible challenges—and to find solutions together to improve the situation. It also makes it possible to adjust the company’s level of expectation according to what’s possible.”
3 – Adding flexibility to your schedule
“Here again, it’s the role of the employer and managers to discuss how employees organize work—particularly the connection schedules of those who telework. Some prefer to start their day early to have a longer lunch break, and others prefer to sleep later and stop less at mealtimes. Covering these issues helps bring flexibility and responsiveness to everyone’s needs. Thus, telework will be a much better experience for all.”
4 – Offering geographical flexibility
“While employers have evaluated health risks, many have underestimated the impact in psychosocial risks of forced telework and confinement. Some people experience staying at home permanently very negatively. When government regulations allow, it’s important to allow people who wish to do so to return to the office for one or two days a week so they can regain human contact in real life.
Encountering employees is an indispensable safety valve for some: you have to know how to listen to all and be flexible to avoid risks. I’ve advised some people in distress to contact their HR to formally request to return to the office, explaining the difficulties encountered at home and the resulting psychosocial risks (anxiety, sleep problems, depression, etc.). Guess what: It worked! Almost everywhere, HR managers were listening. I encourage all those who encounter difficulties in remote working to do the same.”
5 – Training in remote management
“It’s THE big topic for tomorrow—and even for today! Managers have been confronted with 100% teleworking without necessarily being guided, while they themselves may be experiencing difficulties in their own work organization. HR has a key role to play by offering managers training to teach them how to tailor their approach to each employee and to implement new methods that take into account the different work environments and experiences of each person.”
Also read: Hybrid Work: Management Best Practices
6 – Raising awareness and encouraging disconnection
“In many companies, remote working often rhymes with very extended connection schedules. However, just because the tools are available does not mean that a person has the mental availability to deal with files for hours on end. Managers need to be vigilant about their teams’ connection schedules, and take the initiative in the discussion if they notice a hyper amplitude. Does the person have too much work? Does he or she want to adapt his or her schedule because of personal constraints?
This is one of the major risks of telecommuting: once turned on, your computer will not shut down unless you choose to do so. But we are not machines, we need quality sleep, we need to eat other than by reading our emails, otherwise our digestion will be disturbed. The more intensively we use technology, the more we need to balance by going back to simple, healthy things to recharge our batteries.”
7 – Preventing musculoskeletal disorders
“When you’re teleworking, you move around less than when you go to the office, and you don’t always have an ergonomic workstation. The result is a dramatic increase in back, neck and shoulder pain, etc.” Osteopaths and physiotherapists saw their consultations explode at the end of the first lockdown.
To guide remote work, the company can offer practical workshops to teach employees the right postures, movements that relax the joints and the back, training in “power nap” to recharge their batteries, or initiation to mindfulness meditation. The idea is to provide people with a toolbox to take care of themselves. Whenever possible, I also recommend practicing meetings standing up: this mobilizes the body and avoids ankylosing in front of the screen.”
8 – Learning to trust
“This is perhaps the most essential recommendation, and a key motivational factor highlighted by the first lockdown: employees really appreciated that their managers trusted them and let them move forward without permanent control. Conversely, on our psychological hotlines, we also collected testimonials from employees who were exhausted and demotivated by excessive control from their managers: control of calendars, connection schedules, etc.
There is a work of evangelization to be done to promote the benefits of trust within the company, which involves distance management training, dialogue, and a change of mentality by prioritizing the culture of results rather than time spent.”
Teleworking represents a real opportunity to reconcile certain personal constraints with work, without losing productivity. With the right support, it is a winning organization for both the company and its employees! But to achieve this, it is essential to implement these best practices and ensure that managers and teams apply them.
Also read: Tackling the Risks of Hybrid Work
In her book La Résilience, ça se cultive au quotidien (published by Mango in 2019), Brigitte Vaudolon invites everyone to explore their capacity for resilience in the face of life’s difficulties, and to draw some positives from the trials and tribulations that confront us every day. More than ever, this book is more topical than ever!
Want to know more about the challenges and best practices of post-Covid teleworking? Read our white paper: “Future of Work: Mak Way for Hybrid Work! .”
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In our white paper “The Future of Work: Make Way for Hybrid!” you’ll discover the eight main challenges of hybrid work; best practices managers, HR, internal communication, IT and employees all can adopt; and the tools for facilitating hybrid work.
Author: Clémentine Garnier