Employees who work remotely have long suffered from work-from-home (WFH) paranoia—the feeling of misinterpreting (virtual) social cues and missing out on what’s happening in the office.
Now, hybrid work might be exacerbating it. Employees who were used to interacting with their managers and coworkers in an in-person setting might start to express feelings of mistrust and fear as a result of not being in close communication with their teams. Likewise, now that they’re not getting feedback as quickly or as often, employees might start to question if they’ve done anything wrong. And the WFH paranoia cycles on.
As HR professionals, you can step in, work with leaders, and help to assuage employees’ fears. Here are some ideas for how to get started.
1. Establish Norms for Workplace Communication
One of the common triggers for WFH paranoia is communication—rather, miscommunication or misinterpreting communication—with managers and peers. To overcome this, help leaders establish workplace communication norms with their teams.
This includes thinking through details like:
- Who: Make everyone on your team feel included by having a team Slack channel and hosting regular team meetings where every member is invited to attend and contribute. (Hint: if your workplace is hybrid, make sure to host meetings that are either completely virtual or hybrid; never host in-person-only meetings as that will make those who work remotely feel isolated and excluded.)
- What: Whether it’s meetings, brainstorming sessions, or something else, establish norms around what employees can expect from each form of communication. That is, they’ll hear from you via Zoom for weekly one-on-one meetings; they can send you a Slack message for casual questions throughout the workday; they can expect to not hear from you after hours or on weekends; and so on.
- Where (and how): As mentioned above, if your workplace has moved to a hybrid work model, set clear expectations about where collaboration will take place (e.g., via Slack, a project management tool like Asana or Trello, and so on). Likewise, establish where team and one-on-one communications will happen. Whether it’s via Slack, email, Zoom, or voice calls, letting employees know what to expect when it comes to how they’ll hear from leaders and peers goes a long way is allaying WFH paranoia.
- When: Set expectations around when employees will hear from you. If they’re expecting feedback on an idea, for example, and they don’t hear from you for a day or two, they may start to worry. Setting expectations can help build and maintain that trust.
2. Support Employees With Fostering Meaningful Relationships
Another difficult obstacle of WFH is feeling isolated from the people you work with—especially for those employees who rely on work for socialization and feeling like they belong.
To overcome this obstacle, be intentional about helping employees foster meaningful relationships at work by:
- Establishing a mentorship program. A formal mentorship program can help foster relationships that might not occur in a virtual environment. Having access to senior leaders, and leaders from across different areas of business, can help employees feel more connected to the organization and that they have an advocate rooting for them, even if they’re not physically in the workplace.
- Setting up virtual coffee chats. Less formal, yet just as impactful, virtual chats can help remote employees forge relationships with coworkers who they might not otherwise interact with.
- Asking employees what’s meaningful to them. A quick employee survey or one-on-one conversation between an employee and manager can help leaders understand what employees need to feel more connected to the organization. Taking action on that feedback will also help remote employees feel a better sense of connection to the organization.
3. Ensure There's Equity Between In-Office Employees and Remote Workers
True or not, there’s a perception that the people coming to office will get promoted faster. This should go without saying, but that shouldn’t be a thing.
Our advice? Advise leaders to get ahead of the rumor mill by establishing that all employees are equal, no matter where they do their work. And that things like pay and advancement opportunities are based on the value an employee adds to the company, not on their physical location or their willingness to commute to the office.
Supplemental reading: Should Employee Pay Be Based on Location in Our WFH World?
And if the rumors do start to swirl that so-and-so got promoted because he or she is in the office five days a week, do your best to address those concerns immediately. Go back to the basics of communication (mentioned above), and get everyone on the same page about expectations and behaviors.
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At Eddy, we know staying on top of today’s ever-changing workplace can be a lot for a small HR team, especially if you’re a team of one. That’s why we created a software to help take the administrative tasks off your plate, and let you focus on taking care of your employees.
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