[Column] How to deal with fatigue in remote teams

While the pandemic paved way for even the most staunch opponents of remote work to change their perspective, fatigue is starting to set in for some of the teams, especially for those who have been isolated for the best part of the year now. However, as restrictions relax, some companies are choosing to reopen their office with a limited workforce.

While remote work undoubtedly has certain advantages, some teams may be experiencing a morale drop after months of being stuck at home without a chance to socialize. There are also concerns about adverse mental health impact. In order to boost your team’s morale, here are a few suggestions you can try:

1. Organise virtual team building

You can organise virtual meet-ups and brainstorming sessions. An additional option is to coordinate virtual one-on-ones between staff members, giving them topics to talk about. An in-depth dive into a subject with another person can do wonders for sparking ideas and creativity.

You can also add value by bringing in subject matter experts to present specific topics. Even if it’s not directly related to what you do, the sessions can help employees gain a fresh perspective, inspire different ways of thinking and rekindle interest in ongoing projects. 

2. Give them a time out

Without the usual corporate trips or weekend outings, every day probably feels like a weekday for your employees. Consider giving your teams a few days off to bring back the leisurely weekend feel. Not only does this allow them some time to put their feet up and relax, the gesture also gives your workers the confidence that you care about their well-being and that their jobs aren’t in financial jeopardy. 

3. Introduce a mental health wellness programme

If you haven’t already, bringing a mental health professional onboard can be extremely helpful for employees who find it especially hard to deal with social isolation and loneliness. Hire an in-house counsellor or offer subsidised clinical screening to those who need help. You can also host seminars to increase awareness and initiate internal discussions to normalise conversations on mental health.

4. Get people moving

Exercise can be a great way to reignite people’s mental freshness. After months at home, they may have slipped into moving less than they did previously. You could organise a virtual group class that everyone can get involved in or make a personal trainer available to advise them on exercises and workouts.

You can also inspire them to eat healthy meals by having a chef give healthy food and snack advice, perhaps even including a virtual cook-along class.

5. Use the right tools

It might sound overly simple, but if you’re using the wrong tools, then remote and online collaboration can be an exercise in extreme frustration. Make sure you’re giving your teams the support they need by using a technology provider that offers all the tools they need, built using the same technology stack, so they interoperate seamlessly. For example, an office suite should enable productivity as well as unified communication and collaboration between teams in your office. It should also centralise your team’s workspace, simplify file storage, and streamline team communication.  

With the right tools at hand, it also matters how the leadership leverages them. If you have a social intranet platform, use them extensively to connect with your employees. At Zoho, for example, the CEO makes monthly posts about business outlook to talk about how we are faring as a company and what to expect in the coming months. He also hosts openhouse sessions, where people are free to bring in their concerns and ask questions. Regularly communicating with your employees, and being open about the situation will allow everyone to feel invested and secure.

Decisions to stay fully remote or to go back to the on-site office are not exclusive of each other anymore. Instead, you may find yourself opting for a hybrid solution where people spend some time in the office and the rest at home. Either way, online collaboration will play an increasingly important role in the workplace. Applied correctly, the lessons learned now will, therefore, serve you well in the long-term.

This article was submitted by Andrew Bourne , Zoho’s Regional Manager for the Africa region and is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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