Remote Work vs. Working While Quarantined: How to Help Your Employees

Working from home in uncertain times can be stressful

Remote work is different from working while being quarantined—and the effects on employees can be huge.

That’s because the psychological differences between the two are vast. One of the main contributing stressors? The lack of choice in the matter.

Whereas “working from home” is a phrase typically given to a temporary action of working from your home—rather than the office—due to extraordinary circumstances such as natural disasters, illness, and the like, “working remotely” is usually more of a permanent circumstance. Some people work remotely by choice, and conversely, some don’t.

Working remotely seems to be something millennials want because it represents freedom—freedom to work from somewhere that may specifically not be home, nor an office. While this, of course, applies to non-millennials too, it’s common to say you’re “working remotely” if it’s from a cafe, a place you’re travelling or living abroad, or even a coworking space.

When you’re working remotely due to being quarantined, however, this element of freedom is taken from you, which may lead some team members to panic.

So what can you do to ensure your team members are connected and their wellbeing is preserved during these trying times?

Keeping Employees Sane

According to a paper for the Lancet entitled “The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence”, authors Samantha Brooks, Rebecca Webster, Louise Smith, Lisa Woodland, Simon Wessely, Neil Greenberg, and Gideon James Rubin looked at stressors during a quarantine.

Unsurprisingly, one of the main stressors was frustration and isolation:

Confinement, loss of usual routine, and reduced social and physical contact with others were frequently shown to cause boredom, frustration, and a sense of isolation from the rest of the world, which was distressing to participants. This frustration was exacerbated by not being able to take part in usual day-to-day activities, such as shopping for basic necessities or taking part in social networking activities.

So what can you do as a team leader and/or program coordinator to help your employees stay sane and mitigate the consequences of quarantine? The researchers offered a few solutions.

Reducing Isolation and Creating Social Networks

In order to reduce feelings of isolation and improve communication, you should give team members practical advice on coping and stress management techniques, as well as some things they can do in order to stave off boredom. Maybe your company can create an in-house or community-sourced living document (think Google Docs) of great online classes, free reading resources, podcasts, and other things employees can access at any time.
Also ensuring that your team members are connected to one another via online communication platforms like Slack, video conferencing platforms like Zoom, and mentoring programs like Mentorloop can help your company create a strong social network that supports employees both professionally and personally. This is especially important seeing as researchers found that an inability to activate one’s social network, albeit remotely, “is associated not just with immediate anxiety, but longer­-term distress”.

Altruism vs. Compulsion

Researchers also pointed out that social distancing, self-isolation, and/or choosing to work from home during times like these can lead to feelings of altruism, “feeling that others will benefit from one’s situation can make stressful situations easier to bear and it seems likely that this is also true for home-based quarantine”. Therefore, if team members are gently encouraged to work from home in service to the greater good (read: not putting the at-risk at higher risk nor overloading the health care system), they may feel more at peace with their decision to do so. Including your team in the preparations for remote work is one way to reduce this anxiety.

How a Mentoring Program Can Help During These Times

A mentoring program like Mentorloop can help your company right now in numerous ways.

Not only do these types of programs help keep people connected in uncertain times, but they also provide new opportunities for relationships beyond employees’ family units or immediate teams. This access to others who may be experiencing similar challenges when it comes to this new way of working can allow team members to then go back and share insights with their own teams.

Most importantly, a mentoring program can provide people with a sense of purpose, goal-setting opportunities, a healthy dose of team spirit, and a feeling of progression in times where it might not feel that way.

Connection, belonging and support are at the heart of every Mentorloop program – and can easily be scaled to large remote teams.

Interested in learning how Mentorloop can help your business overcome these trying times? Request a demo today.

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Em is our Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. That's a lot of 'm's! | She is passionate about crafting messages, crafternoons and craft beer.

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