If you manage a remote team, there may come a point where you think that a member of your workforce seems unhappy. But how do you address this kind of issue within a virtual team? It might seem more complicated to sort out when your team is distributed, but it needn’t be.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the typical signs of remote employee unhappiness, common causes, as well as providing you with actionable tips to combat such problems. This includes remote team management advice on how to prevent low morale within your workforce and guidance on how to tackle morale problems when they do arise, to avoid them becoming bigger issues for your business.
Below are the points we will be covering in this guide. Feel free to go straight to the section most relevant to you by clicking on the section title:
What Are the Signs of Remote Employee Unhappiness?
Remote employee unhappiness might present itself in a number of ways. Of course, the most obvious way of finding out is through your remote employee telling you directly. However, there are some other tell-tale signs that may indicate employee unhappiness within a virtual team.
Whilst this list below is by no means exhaustive (and other reasons could also be attributing) it does include common indicators of low morale within a remote workforce: These are:
- Failing to meet deadlines that they didn’t have problems with before (for no apparent reason)
- Lacking in motivation
- A drop in productivity
- Problems with communication
- An uptick in the number of sick days taken
- A perceptible shift in mood
- Bad attitude
Common Causes of Remote Employee Unhappiness
Before we talk solutions to tackling remote employee unhappiness, it’s worth considering what the most common underlying reasons attributing to their low mood can be:
Buffer discovered that the biggest challenge employees working remotely suffer with is loneliness. Without an office environment and a physical separation of workers (often worldwide), remote staff might feel isolated.
This can be a problem especially if remote workers do not have a healthy work-life balance, and work predominantly at home without seeing other people regularly. Feeling isolated can have a knock-on effect on productivity, and can impact greatly on one’s mental health in the long-term.
In a recent State of Remote Work survey, remote workers cited their third biggest struggle with working remotely as communication issues. But what exactly is meant by that? Communication issues can take many forms, such as:
- Lack of regular communication between management and the remote workforce
- Failing to clearly communicate what is expected of remote employees and their work
- Inability to listen to remote employee issues when they arise
- Lack of organisation when it comes to project management
- Miscommunication due to cultural differences
Working from home presents a unique set of challenges that office staff do not experience that can lead to depression. For example, remote staff can face difficulties when it comes to:
- Unplugging after work
- Feeling like they never stop working
- Becoming isolated
- Collaboration issues
If someone is experiencing depression, this can have a huge impact on their work, or even their ability to produce work at all.
Burnout can unfortunately be a big problem for remote workers. Being unable to unwind after work was cited as the biggest issue for remote employees in a 2019 Buffer survey. If remote employees feel that they can never truly switch off (and fail to take adequate number of holidays each year) and need to constantly be ‘on-call’ this can eventually lead to burnout.
How to Tackle Remote Employee Unhappiness
Invest in Your Employees
Give your remote team the tools they need to be able to thrive in a working from home environment by signing them up to the Working Den platform. By doing so, you can help alleviate some of the issues that can be caused by working remotely (and even better, prevent some problems happening in the first place).
Working Den’s founders understand the work challenges from the perspectives of both remote business employees and freelancers. Crucially, they understand that the key to a successful working from home setup is prioritising wellbeing.
Here are just some of the features you’ll be equipping your remote team with by using Working Den:
- Burnout test: employees can receive tailored advice according to the burnout stage they are in (if any). Created by a renowned organisational psychologist and research psychologist. The inspiration behind the test was co-founder Daniel’s own struggles and lack of support with crippling burnout when starting out as a freelancer
- Support for depression: staff can check symptoms and receive advice on overcoming depression
- Guided breathing exercises: to help your employees feel calmer and manage working situations more effectively
- Ergonomics assessment: with the Display Screen Equipment test, in accordance with current UK legislation and benefit from an improved posture
- Eye strain reminder: remote employees will receive a gentle reminder every 20 minutes on their laptop or computer encouraging them to take a 20-second break from the screen. Known as the 20-20-20 rule by optometrists, it can help prevent eye fatigue
Don’t forget: the cost of the Working Den platform (at just $9.99 a month per employee.) is far less than the amount you could end up having to spend on rehiring staff members at a later date.
Make Use of Communication Tools
To make communication easier and to solve problems far more effectively (and therefore avoid potential employee unhappiness), make better use of communication tools. For example, Slack is an excellent workspace communication to use for instant messaging.
Zoom or Google Hangouts, are also great tools to use for face-to-face meetings – which we recommend using as much as possible for important discussions. Why? It helps you get to know your remote employees better and helps you to avoid messaging miscommunication that can easily occur due to the lack of face-to-face interaction common in remote work setups.
It’s also the best way of discussing issues with remote employees about low morale, should such problems arise.
Provide Clear Expectations
Another way to avoid employee unhappiness in the first place is by setting clear expectations from the start as to what you want from them. You may decide to do this on a weekly or monthly basis, but whatever you decide – stick with it. We recommend using a project management tool like Trello, Monday or Asana to make it abundantly clear your workflow expectations.
Address Cultural Differences
Failing to adequately address or accommodate cultural differences can also be a leading contributor of remote employee unhappiness. With many remote teams distributed across the world, this increases the likelihood of needing to accommodate different cultures’ ways of communicating.
Listen, and be more considerate of cultural differences. You could also consider organising virtual team-building activities that enable staff to share insights and details about their cultures.