How employers can ease strain of remote working

For some employees, working from home has had a detrimental effect on their mental health

How employers can ease strain of remote working

While not working in safety per se, recruiter Steven Cardwell has the privileged position of having witnessed a whole range of workplaces and employers through his job, and has learned a thing or two about what it takes to be a good employer.

Cardwell is General Manager, Engineering Search Firm Inc. (a division of Steven Cardwell Recruitment) and recruits across a variety of sectors, with a strong focus manufacturing and engineering.

Safety is always a concern, he says, both for potential candidates and recruiters.

COVID has heavily impacted the job market, “we have a basic shortage of talent,” says Cardwell. “We do have a serious problem with trades on the manufacturing side, but we’ve had that problem since before [the pandemic].”

He is keen to highlight the importance of mental health – and with this year’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign having just come and gone, psychological safety is top of mind for employers throughout Canada.

Remote work has had a number of consequences for Canadian workers – both good and bad.

Cardwell says that for recruiters themselves, remote work going mainstream has been advantageous, opening businesses up to a pool of talent they would not have necessarily had access to.

For workers, however, the mental health toll of remote work is starting to be felt.

Mental health is even more of a serious even now than it was before, says Cardwell, due to COVID.

“It’s not easy, and it takes a very disciplined individual to work from home,” says Cardwell. “Especially if you have kids or a partner. And certain times of the day, you have to help kids with schoolwork because they’re at home…it’s not easy.”

While remote work has been a positive experience for some, some teleworkers are hugely affected by the loss of a “regular” routine and feelings of isolation (or, on the contrary, lack of personal space).

“After working from home for a couple of years, you get what we used to call ‘Cabin Fever’,” says Cardwell.

There are, however, some things that employers can do to ease the mental load for those struggling with working from home.

1. Listen to employees

He says he has seen a number of candidates who no longer wish to work from home and want to go into the office or have a hybrid work model.

Cardwell says that has was privy to a situation where one employee, who was struggling working from home, wanted to go back to the office during the pandemic, but the employer refused due to the pandemic and social distancing concerns.

While safety must be top of mind, especially amid COVID, employers also need to be aware that some employees are really struggling with remote work and listen and communicate with workers to find a solution wherein workers are both physically and mentally well.

2. Invest in (virtual) care

It’s not just those regular 9 to 5 roles that have gone remote, now more than every before Canadians have access to a range of virtual services.

Cardwell says that he had a client in the GTA who, for a past Mental Health Week, invested in employee mental health by getting every employee to speak with a counselor (virtually). And this exercise was mandatory.

“I thought that was absolutely amazing – I think more companies should be doing that right now, because this is a good example of a client that has done very well during the pandemic,” he says.

3. Cut some slack

“I would highly recommend the companies that can afford to cut some slack for their employees,” says Cardwell.

And by this he means allowing for more flexible work patterns at home, and trusting the employee that the work will eventually get done on time. For those taking care of children or elderly family members, this allows them to create healthier work-life boundaries and work at their own rhythm.

“I think companies have to lighten up a bit,” he says. “Whatever a company can do to ease the pain of an employee – I say go for it. It’s a small price to pay.”