Understanding the root causes of toxic work environments at home can help promote worker motivation, health, and performance.

People are more stressed than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating remote work for millions of Americans, the lines between work and home, for most, are blurred at best. In addition, new technology such as remote monitoring software has increased the pressure to perform and has lead to a decline of trust between companies in their employees.

A recent Qualtrics report found that the prolonged impact of COVID-required working from home (WFH) has an “increasingly pervasive effect on our mental health” with 41.6% of WFH respondents reporting a mental health decline since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Declining mental health is just one of the few negative impacts of toxic work environments. But how exactly are company leaders contributing to toxic work environments at home and how can it be prevented?

Let’s first examine the underlying issues that contribute to toxic remote work environments and then move onto the steps companies can take in order to build a sustainable model of trust.

Work-from-home burnout

Concerns about job security, mounting household stress and a nonexistent separation of work and home life are just some of the many reasons 68% of people report experiencing burnout while working remotely, according to a recent survey by Monsters.com.

Employees who feel burnout are more likely to see a negative effect on both work quality and attitude. Company leaders can contribute to WFH burnout by setting unrealistic expectations for their employees. This includes leaders demanding employees to be online and outside of working hours, and expecting more from workers who no longer have to spend time commuting.

A loss of information

Less face-to-face interaction creates more opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunications. Forbes contributor and founder of the corporate training company Professionalism Matters Dana Brownlee talks about how “it’s easy to leave a call and feel, ‘What’s going on? They don’t care about me. I’m not being listened to clearly. I’m not on the fast track.”

With a majority of remote interactions happening virtually, it easier to misinterpret conversations which can lead to hurt feelings and confusion.

Remote monitoring carries risks

A new common approach company leaders are using in order to decrease trust in remote work is through monitoring. This could be with remote monitoring software such as Hubstaff or through process (for example, hourly check ins). However, these studies are now showing the monitoring is in fact counterproductive. A recent survey found that 49% of employees subject to stringent monitoring reported severe anxiety, compared to only 7% of those subject to low levels of monitoring.

Remote work monitoring risks creating new distractions for employees, lowers employee moral and retention. Without better ways of measuring employee productivity, companies might only be contributing to toxic remote work environments.

Three ways to move forward

Company leaders can build sustainable models of trust and dismantle toxic work environments at home by considering the following in their organizational structure:

  1. Establish support. The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health, and organizations should provide employees with support. Company leaders can support remote workers by providing tools to cope with stress, creating boundaries with work hours and checking in regularly.
  2. Empower workers to have autonomy over their work. Focusing on the quality of work rather than the timing of work promotes productivity and trust between company leaders and employees.
  3. Provide feedback systems. Since remote employees don’t have the option of speaking up in person, setting in place the means for workers to communicate feedback and concerns is helpful.

By understanding the underlying causes of toxic work environments at home, company leaders can promote worker motivation, health, and performance.

We want to hear from you. Tell us, how is your company is handling the remote work trend? Please share in the comments below or shoot us an email!

Until next time,

 

Brian + Ben
Monarch CRE

 

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