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Remote Workers Are More Anxious About Layoffs

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Anxiety in the workplace is on the rise. Starting in the fall of 2022, layoffs begin in the tech industry and begin to spread more widely. These cuts, combined with continued uncertainty about the economy and the future of work, have left employees understandably confused.

Last year at Humu, we analyzed employee engagement survey responses and behavioral data from more than 80,000 employees. In a recent study, 89% of human resources leaders told us that their teams have recently expressed concerns about job security, leadership changes, or reorgs. Anxiety also seems to be driving employee preferences: Half of workers prioritize job stability over higher pay and career growth.

But what impressed us the most were the striking differences between the responses of in-person and remote team members. Remote employees are 32% more likely to feel anxious after news of layoffs and more anxious about getting a new manager during a reorg. And 67% said this anxiety had an impact on their productivity. People who go to the office at least some of the time – whether that’s hybrid or completely personal – are 24% less likely to say that uncertainty has affected their productivity in the last six months.

It stands to reason that employees who spend little (or no) time in person with leadership, their manager, and their team may be missing out on an important social buffer against workplace stress.

But the answer is not to force everyone back into the office. Our research shows that people Granted want remote opportunities: 50% of employees say that remote work is the top priority for them in their next role, while only 4% will look for fully in-person work.

So how can organizations continue to offer the flexible work arrangements that top talent wants – and reduce the anxiety of remote workers? The key is training managers to develop a strong sense of inclusion within their distributed teams.

Creating the conditions for well-being and productivity in an isolated or hybrid setting may seem difficult at first. Managing a dispersed team requires different skills than some managers may have used before, which can make it more difficult. But with focus and practice, it gets easier.

Here are five ways managers can reduce anxiety — and improve performance — in remote and hybrid workers.

Put chit-chat on the agenda.

When everyone works in the same office, it’s easier to get to know each other while making small talk in the kitchen or walking to and from meetings. Because remote workers do not have access to casual collisions, construction relationship trust a distributed situation requires structure.

An easy way to fight affinity distanceor the emotional separation that can occur between distant team members, is dedicating the first five minutes of team meetings to a shared ritual. there everyone says something they’re excited about or try “High, Low, Ha,” where each person talks about a highlight from their week, a low point, and something that made them laugh.

Our remote Humu team starts meetings by asking something light-hearted and easy to answer – and we rotate who is responsible for asking the question. We bond over prompts like “What food is worthless?” and “You have five seconds to get something. Then share with the group what it is and why it is in your home.” These activities make work relationships feel less transactional and create a social buffer against unnecessary anxiety.

Make cross-functional connections.

Dispersed employees tend to lack shared context, from body language to shared kitchen snacks to inside jokes. They also often have little visibility into what is happening across teams, which can lead to confusion and an “us vs. them” attitude between functions.

Managers should seek to build bridges with other teams in their organization. Try creating opportunities for remote employees to work on cross-functional projects (people tend to feel closest to the people they work with the most) or connect your team members with person from another department for informal chats. You can say something like, “Tracy, Kim’s expertise is relevant to what you’re focusing on. Why don’t you set up some time with her this week to get her thoughts? Happy to do the intro. ” You can also regularly host colleagues from other departments in your team meeting to discuss their work, how your teams are getting along, and what they want to know from your reports.

Finally, make it a priority to take notes during important meetings and share them, either in a folder or summarized in a public channel. Between hybrid and virtual teams, careful documentation especially important in improving performance and confidence.

Make a list, and check it twice.

It’s easy to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” trap when you don’t spend a lot of personal time with your team. In other words, you’re more likely to reach the people you’ve worked with the longest or who speak up the most in team meetings. This bias can lead you to measure and reward access instead of performance.

To combat this bias, when you’re evaluating who to delegate work to or who’s the best fit for an exciting opportunity, don’t just go with the first person that comes to mind. Write down every single person on your team. Review your list carefully and consider each individual’s strengths and areas where they may need (or want) improvement. Then make a more informed, deliberate decision.

Think carefully about how you use 1:1 time

Our research shows that 49% of employees feel anxious before 1:1s with their manager. These meetings offer a great opportunity to intervene and try to relieve your team’s anxiety, but you need to rethink how you run them.

Are you asking? ask at check-in (Think: “How can I best support you?” or “Is something unclear or hindering your work?”) and ask for input from your reports? You can go a long way in calming down an insecure employee by saying, “Your expertise is very unique and important to this company, and I value your opinion and expertise. What do you think of this?”

If you focus your 1:1 on status updates, you are missing an important opportunity to better understand and support your people. Worse, you’re inadvertently sending the message that you’re the only one who cares about urgent tasks and tasks, which can make your team feel spent and stressed. Consider if there are alternative channels (think email or a Slack thread) where you can get status updates.

Think about how you appear as a manager.

As a manager, you have a huge impact on how employees feel about their day-to-day lives—and on how they feel safe to share. A big part of your job is to create an environment where every team member feels comfortable being honest and flagging concerns.

Ask yourself:

  • Are my team members asking questions or dealing with issues?
  • When I communicate a decision, do I also share why and how it was made?
  • Have I ever spoken about my feelings to a direct report?

If you only receive positive feedback, especially if things are uncertain and employees are undoubtedly worried, you should be concerned. Aim to provide more transparency where you can, and to set the tone for conversations by sharing what you’ve experienced. You don’t have to suddenly become an open book, but say something simple like, “I know there’s been a lot of change lately, and that can be stressful. I feel the same way.” this,” may be far-fetched.

By focusing on the actions outlined above, managers can connect remote and hybrid team members to each other and to the larger organization, feeling more included and less anxious.

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