In 2020, the economy saw a widespread and fundamental shift in working practices. Where once employees might have all come together in a particular building in order to get work done, now they tend to do the same work from home. While this change was brought about by a concern about contagion, it’s likely that home-working will persist to some extent in the future.
Managing psychosocial risk is particularly difficult in an environment like this. It’s more difficult to check in with particular employees and monitor their well-being, for one thing. For another, the isolated nature of workers in this kind of environment means that psychosocial risk is inherently higher, and that HR jobs are even more important.
What are the psychosocial risks of working from home?
Among the biggest sources of stress for home workers is uncertainty. A lack of information about what’s going on in the workplace, and how the changing situation is being handled, can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. Add to this the lack of opportunity to engage in small talk at the office, and you have a recipe for discontent.
How can the practice of telework be regulated and the safety of employees protected?
Among the biggest problems of remote work is the tendency that some workers have to work longer hours. After all, if there’s a massive to-do list accumulating, and there’s no physical separation between the work space and the leisure space, the temptation to work long hours may well become irresistible.
Employers might help to guard against this phenomenon by mandating limits on work time for remote workers. We can also replicate the social aspect of a workplace through remote, fun sessions on programs like Zoom.
How can HR get involved to improve these risks?
Zoom also provides a means for remote workers to check in with HR managers, and discuss any issues that might otherwise be neglected. Regular scheduled phone calls, or an open-door policy, might help to identify psychosocial issues before they become a problem. With all of that said, employees shouldn’t be encouraged to self-diagnose their thoughts as pathological – in many cases, feelings of stress and isolation are simply natural reactions to the world around us.
What skills will be needed for this new type of management?
HR managers in the age of remote work will need to work harder in order to obtain the information that they need from workers. Keeping track of who’s doing what might require the use of productivity apps like Monday or Trello. Moreover, dealing with the inherent limitations of videoconferencing is essential.