How to Support Mental Health for your Global Workforce

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Atlas Team

Atlas helps innovative companies like yours to expand, onboard, manage and pay international teams in 160+ countries.

Published: 05 Jul 2024

Remote working brings a host of benefits for employer and employee — but it can also lead to mental health challenges unless companies take proactive steps.  

Remote work has gone from the exception to the norm at rapid speed. What began with digital transformation accelerated with the pandemic, leading to irreversible changes in ways of working. Deloitte found that over 80% of organizations have implemented some form of remote work policy and that, globally, 35% of organizations currently allow employees to work remotely from other countries. What’s more, 16% of companies now operate and hire on a full remote basis, with Europe being a particular remote work hotspot.  

As remote and hybrid practices have grown in popularity, they have become a critical tool for talent attraction, retention and employee experience. However, while remote work brings many benefits to employees and employers, when not carefully managed, it can also negatively impact employee mental health. In this article we outline some of the potential mental health challenges of working remotely and share some strategies to help you support mental health for your global workforce.  

The benefits of remote work for employees 

There’s a reason remote working has become so popular — it can offer a number of benefits for employees, including: 

  1. Better work-life balance: 

    83% of professionals believe that working from home more would improve their work-life balance. By removing the commute time, employees can manage their workload more flexibly, integrate childcare into their day and take care of daily tasks like laundry.  

  2. Lower stress: 

    A positive side effect of a better work-life balance? Less stress. Many remote workers enjoy getting to spend more time with significant others, as well as avoiding stressful and expensive commutes and feeling more relaxed in their home environment than they do in an office.  

  3. Better physical health: 

    Remote work is making employees healthier. 45% of remote workers claim to get more sleep, 42% are making healthier food choices and 35% are getting more physical exercise. 

The benefits of remote work for employers 

For employers, a remote workforce can bring a host of benefits, including: 

  1. Lower overheads: 

    With 78% of remote employees willing to take a pay cut to continue working from home, a remote workforce can significantly reduce company overheads by lowering salaries and getting rid of relocation costs. What’s more, you can save money on office rent, utilities and other associated costs, such as cleaning services and security.  

  2. Increased productivity: 

    It’s a common belief that remote workers are less productive — but according to research, the opposite is true. A recent study revealed that, of those who worked remotely at least a few times per month, 77% reported greater productivity, 30% of workers were able to accomplish more in less time and 24% accomplished more in the same amount of time. As well as eliminating the commute time, this added productivity may be due to fewer distractions and greater motivation to finish working to spend time with loved ones.   

  3. Lower turnover: 

    It’s becoming clear that offering flexible working options improves employee satisfaction and increases loyalty, while forcing employees to return to the office full-time has the opposite effect. 56% of professionals know someone who has quit their role due to return-to-office mandates, while a survey of US employees found that companies that allow remote work undergo 25% less employee turnover than those that don’t.  

  4. Increased hiring pool: 

    If you’re willing to hire remote candidates, you open yourself up to an international — even global — talent pool. Offering flexible work also increases inclusivity, which can lead to a greater range of applications from people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and skills, and a better company reputation. 

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The mental health challenges of remote work 

Under the wrong circumstances, some of the benefits of remote work can also become challenges, increasing stress and having a negative impact on employee mental health. Some specific challenges include: 

  1. Loneliness and communication issues: 

    According to a recent survey, around 15% of people reported loneliness as their biggest struggle with working remotely. Challenges around team building can add to a feeling of isolation amongst remote workers, particularly when team members are fully remote (as opposed to hybrid working), based in different time zones and/or contending with cultural differences. Some employees may also struggle with virtual collaboration, leading to crossed wires, increased stress and missed deadlines.  

  2. Blurred work-life boundaries: 

    While remote working can contribute to better work-life balance, it can also go the other way, leading workers to feel they are neither fully present at work nor in their personal lives. This is most likely to occur when employees don’t have a designated workspace at home and when they don’t take regular breaks (or only break to do household chores, meaning they rarely properly switch off during the working day).  

  3. Limited professional progression: 

    Career stalling can be a common concern for remote workers. Issues might include limited support from line managers, being overlooked for promotions (due to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality), and a lack of learning and development opportunities.  

Practical tips on managing mental health for your global remote workforce 

Whatever stage you’re at in your remote working journey as an organization, it’s vital to consider the risks to employee mental health, as well as the benefits. Doing so will help you to implement policies and practices that align with your overall business objectives, as well as to fulfill your duty of care as an employer by properly supporting your team members.  

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to remote work — every model and approach will look different — but some universally helpful approaches include the following.  

  1. Implement remote working policies 

    Remote working policies provide your employees with structure and can help prevent problems before they arise. Clear guidelines around working hours are particularly important and can be reinforced by technology. For example, some companies have introduced pop-up reminders that appear when an employee opens their computer at non-regular working hours, prompting them to be mindful of their rest time and respect that of others. By encouraging employees to switch off, rather than cultivating an “always on” culture, you can reduce stress and avoid burnout.  

    If you have a team based across multiple time zones, consider implementing “crossover hours” when employees need to be online and available to their colleagues. This not only improves communication and productivity but also helps employees to feel more connected.  

    Finally, regular all-team calls can be useful to ensure every employee is aligned with the company strategy, team goals and performance metrics to keep them motivated.  

  2. Cultivate a culture that values employee wellbeing 

    Building a strong company culture is never straightforward but can be particularly challenging with a remote-first team. Put employee wellbeing at the heart of your culture by scheduling regular check-ins between line managers and their team members where they can discuss topics such as work-life balance and career progression, as well as whether the employee has the right work environment and technology to get their work done efficiently. It might be helpful to offer training, so managers know how best to support their team members, even in virtual situations. 

    You might also consider offering mental health support for remote workers, whether that’s an employee assistance program, counseling services or regular virtual workshops on ways to support your own wellbeing.  

    Other ways to build a sense of community amongst your employees include hosting regular virtual gatherings and team building activities, organizing employee groups (such as new parent groups) so that employees with similar interests or experiences can connect and help each other, and arranging in-person meet-ups with employees based in the same cities to encourage team bonding and reduce isolation. 

  3. Work with a direct EOR to offer employees on-site support 

    A direct employer of record (EOR) is more than a practical tool; it can be an invaluable partner to help you create an unrivaled employee experience and make sure your team feels fully supported and appreciated.  

    Atlas’ direct EOR offers on-site support, wherever your employees are based, covering everything from onboarding in an employee’s native language, information about local benefits to immediate support whenever your employees have any questions or run into any issues, which would give them a sense of belonging and feel supported despite of working remotely.  

    What’s more, Atlas’ HXM platform also provides a tool to simplify processes and help employees stay connected with their line managers and HRs virtually, while having the chance to enjoy equitable global benefits and learning opportunities.   

Learn more about how Atlas’ direct EOR services can help your organization to turn employee experiences into a competitive advantage.  

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