Remote developers – good ones, the kind we know how to find – LOVE their jobs. They’d rather be coding than doing much else. No Big Brother required.
Remote employees work longer hours and willingly take on more work. Yet, the problem of decreased productivity creeps in through quite another window.
Without proper knowledge of how to manage increased workloads (and the stress thereof), developers suffer from burnout.
Of course, employers feel its impact, too. Less productive workers, increased health premiums, and even losing valuable employees.
Given such grim repercussions, it’s in the best interest of any company to teach their employees about work-life balance.
Why Work-Life Balance Is Important To Remote Workers
In 2015, three Harvard professors developed a mathematical model that calculated that work stress contributes to 120,000 deaths in the US. It also costs about $190 billion dollars in healthcare expenses, which is 8% of the national spend. And companies like General Motors spend more on healthcare than on steel!
On the flip side, the story is very different.
In the same year (2015), University of Warwick’s Center for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) and Social Market Foundation conducted a “happiness” study (PDF) with 700 subjects. In the span of four experiments, they determined that happy employees were as much as 20% more productive than the control group.
For remote IT workers, these situations are more severe. Since they work longer hours and often feel isolated as they work by themselves.
This can be ruinous both for themselves and the company. That’s why having a better handle on work-life balance is sensible for both.
Factors Contributing to Work-Related Stress and Burnout
Blind conducted a survey that revealed tech employees considered poor leadership and unclear direction as the top reasons for stress. When team leads cannot give proper guidance or communicate project specs to developers, their own efforts become futile.
Other factors leading to high stress include:
Work Load – When employees are working from a remote location, there’s a tendency to give them more work. But stretched to capacity for extended periods decreases productivity.
Time Management Skills – Prioritizing work can be finicky for a globally distributed team, especially without strong time management skills. (That’s where DistantJob placements are considerably different.)
Over-Collaboration – Most organizations face this problem where they collaborate for the sake of collaboration. Prolonged meetings that lead to nowhere, multiple exchanges of emails and chats – all just to follow some pre-defined structure.
Why Work-Life Balance Needs To Be Taught
Work-life balance comes very high on the list of things developers look for in a good job. The 2019 HackerRank Developer Skills Report states that work-life balance is second on that list. Even before good compensation (which is third).
Wanting something and achieving it are very different. The above Blind survey also found that 57.16% of the 11,487 tech employees who responded were burnt out.
Remote workers, in addition, suffer from “work from home” guilt. They fear that any time they aren’t working, it’ll be considered a “time waste” by management who might penalize them.
So, it becomes necessary for managers to take the lead on this issue. Team leads need to encourage and provide the right resources. Only then will it become accepted and exercised by employees.
Creating a Culture of Work-Life Balance from the Top Down
Building a company culture that actively encourages employees to strike the balance between work and life is a better option than leaving them to it. Some ways to do that include:
Mitigating stress factors – If their sources of stress remain constant, employees’ emotional health will continue to suffer. This means taking a second look at workload distribution, offering better clarity and help with projects, and streamlining bloated business processes.
Learning and development – The number one benefit developers seek from their jobs is the opportunity to learn and grow. Conducting online classes on technical and soft skills that the entire remote team can attend or giving annual education stipends are great ways to foster the habit of learning within the team.
Open communication vibe – A corporate culture based on openness can’t be replaced with business models. Letting remote employees speak freely about what’s bothering them can make them feel more involved and accepted.
In-office counseling – Often a manager or team lead just isn’t qualified to offer better guidance from a psychological point of view. That’s why many businesses have in-house corporate counselors. Remote workers should also have access to counselors who can help them lead a happier life and perform better at work.
Seeking expert help – Developers or project leads don’t learn about work-life balance at school. The assumption that they can simply wing it leads to grave problems. Workshops, seminars, webinars can teach remote employees work-life balance and how to sustainably contribute to a company over the long term.
Building relationships – Strong relationships are the heartbeats of a well-functioning remote team. Regular companywide chats can build camaraderie. But many remote companies are finding that meeting up with their distributed team members 1-2 times a year is helping create lifelong bonds. I
Physical exercise – A study from the American Cancer Society noted that prolonged sitting (6-8 hours) increases mortality rate by 19%. The health journal, Lancet suggested that 60-75 minutes of intensive physical exercise can alleviate that risk. Promoting physical exercise within the company through gym allowances has found success with other remote companies.
Paid time off – What does Spotify, Skype, and Minecraft have in common? They were all developed by Swedes on their tjänstledighet. A six-month sabbatical that any Swede who has worked full-time for six months is eligible to take. In the US, this may sound like a far-out concept. But encouraging passion projects, giving parental leaves, and paid vacations are helping remote workers in companies like HotJar.
Incentivize work-life balance – Incentivizing employee breaks sounds counter-intuitive but leads to better results. A company in Japan, Crazy Inc., pays its employees to sleep. An app made by Airweave Inc. mattress tracks employee sleeping hours for which they get points. These can be exchanged for food in their cafeteria. Their CEO, Kazuhiko Moriyama says “You have to protect workers’ rights, otherwise the country itself will weaken”.
Adding form and structure to work-life balance – Allowing six-months off is not always possible. Still, management can use the right resources and set norms like using up annual vacation days or using apps (such as time management app, Toggl) to remain productive at work.
The health and happiness of employees is a direct reflection of the company itself. And is directly related to employee productivity. Taking measures to ensure employee wellbeing is an important step in safeguarding the company’s long-term success. To see how we can help, email us.