It’s no surprise that remote work during the pandemic is at an all-time high. Some employees enjoy the benefits of this new work-from-home life — including more time with family and friends, flexible work schedules and eliminating their daily commute. But for remote workers who live alone, the daily office interactions with coworkers offer a form of connection and community. This new world of remote work forced unwanted isolation and loneliness for many.
In 2019, 28.4% of U.S. households were single-person — but many organizations during the pandemic prioritized employees with more people under one roof such as caregivers and parents. The additional flexibility given to these employees due to stay-at-home orders and lack of childcare or school shutdowns were beneficial for these employees, but what about the employees who had to fill in the gaps, time and work?
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal surfaced interviews with 35 men and women from various countries who live alone — asking about their remote work experiences during the pandemic. It turns out employees who live alone felt that “they have to often work around the schedules of colleagues with childcare responsibilities — and that they were expected to be the flexible ones, because they lived on their own.” Other findings included that workers who live alone felt they had more pay cuts and less involvement in internal communications as they were focused on employees who had families or lived with others.
The pandemic has substantially increased types of loneliness in Americans — with a 2020 report by Making Caring Common finding that 1 in 3 Americans face “serious loneliness” during the pandemic including over 60% of young adults. Workers are lonely and stressed, and new Limeade Institute research found that when it comes to employee care, only 55% of employees feel like their organization cares about them.
How managers can help care for remote workers who live alone
There’s no magic solution to solve the loneliness remote workers face, but there are many best practices for employers and managers and even self-care practices that employees can put into place. In order to support remote workers who live alone and prepare for the ongoing future of remote work, here are a few ways managers can help care for these employees:
1. Promote employee well-being and care
Now that work and home life are intertwined, employee well-being and care should be at the top of your list. And in order to care for your employers, as a manager, you also have to care for yourself. Managers help foster employee motivation, well-being and engagement. It’s important for organizations to support managers and their well-being and provide resources for them to support their teams as well.
Check in with your team on a regular basis — and try to get a pulse on how they’re doing before diving into work topics. Consider asking how they’re feeling today, what’s on their minds or if there’s anything you can do to support them. Lead by example and take time off from work to step away and recharge, set boundaries to reduce stress and make time to get outside.
2. Create meaningful connections
Connection is key in the workplace — and due to the pandemic, many employees no longer have the daily in-person office interactions they once enjoyed. Boost team connection to help build community and culture with social sharing, team activities or challenges and peer recognition. Remember that quality connection is important — limit multitasking when communicating with your remote workers to show you’re not only listening, but you truly care.
You can also implement best practices like using video chat whenever possible, scheduling team happy hours or meetings focused on getting to know each other and encouraging employees to join virtual Employee Resource Groups. Promote group social activities for employees who live alone, such as virtual group workouts, impromptu chats or game nights.
3. Invest in employees’ home office space
Many workers were sent home to create their own professional workspace in whatever living circumstances were available. For people who live alone, that automatically meant isolated work in perhaps an environment not suitable to do their best work. It also limited access to necessary office supplies — monitors, keyboards, office chairs, internet, printers and so on.
In response to work-from-home orders, many companies took things into their own hands to support their employees. An Aon survey of around 1,400 U.S.-based companies found that nearly 1 in 5 companies are helping to pay for their workers’ home-office equipment. Consider a one-time stipend for employees to purchase home office items of their choice such as a new desk or chair. If monetary support isn’t an option, provide resources for employees to create a thriving work environment with ergonomic checklists, screen time best practices and healthy lunch ideas.
4. Improve communication
Create an environment where employees feel empowered to speak plainly, provide feedback and ask questions. An open dialogue with employees, especially those who live alone, will provide support, trust and care to keep them engaged. And there’s no limit to the discussions.
Talk about mental health to get a pulse on your employees, including the mental health benefits that are available to them. Show appreciation for employees’ work and say thank you. Provide resources to leadership Q&As or all-staff meetings where employees can receive company updates or voice their concerns. Leverage your well-being program to target personally relevant information to specific audiences or groups, such as HR resources, new benefits, events, polls and employee feedback.
Remote workers who live alone face serious potential problems if not addressed or supported by their managers. If you’re interested in learning more about amplifying care for your employees, request a demo today.