Distance Management & Workplace Stress

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

It's not just local workers who can get stressed on the job; remote workers struggle with it, too. In this lesson, you'll learn more about dealing with work-related stress in distance management situations.

Stressed From a Distance

While work-related stress can strike any employee at any time, one particular group of workers present unique challenges in this realm: remote workers. Remote workers are employees of a company who work someplace other than a company office. They may work from home, from a personal office, or even from a coffee shop, but they perform the requirements of their job outside of the business environment.

Remote workers can fill all kinds of roles in a business, from front-line employees to managers. Distance management, that is, managers who are responsible for leading employees from a remote location, can be a very stressful situation for two primary reasons.

Problem #1: Alienation, or the 'Us Vs. Them' Conflict

When managers work in a secondary location, it can be easy to feel isolated or alienated, from those they lead. Distance workers often work from a home office or other location where they are the only person present. It can be easy to feel disconnected when you spend 40 hours per week sitting alone at a computer with no one to really interact with.

Problem #2: Trouble Gauging Local Employee Mood

When you work alongside people day in and day out, you get a pretty good sense of what kind of mood your fellow co-workers are in. The trouble with remote managers and workers is that they don't have this information available as a reference point, due to being located apart from the office. Additionally, it can be hard to gauge emotion or feelings through the primary communication tools of telephone and email.

Addressing Distance-Related Stress

So how do you combat these two problem areas in distance management? Is it possible to bridge the gaps of alienation and lack of face-to-face interaction that leads to a lack of understanding in workers' mood? Of course it is!

Here are a few areas where managers can address distance-related stress.

  1. Show up regularly: Sure, it keeps a manager on the road, but being in regular attendance where your workers function on a daily basis not only gives you an opportunity to lead, but a chance to get to know your workers on a more personal level.
  2. Using technology to keep in touch: Phone calls and emails aren't the only effective ways to stay in touch. Today's technological advances make it easier than ever to stay engaged with workers. Using videoconferencing can make interactions more personal, while chat programs can facilitate a simpler give-and-take in a less formal environment.

A manager working from a home office can easily communicate with all their employees due to the technological advances of today

  1. Clarify roles and responsibilities: When each person knows what his or her responsibilities and requirements are, it facilitates a smoother, more efficient work environment for all.
  2. Employ local leaders: While a manager may be located off-site, employing a local leader can give employees a stronger sense of direction and leadership. The local leader can also serve as a liaison between staff and management.
  3. Deal with problems in person: When matters are pressing, sensitive, or otherwise too complex to deal with over the phone or via email, take the time to meet with employees in person to achieve a satisfactory resolution. Increased face-to-face contact is important during periods of challenges or concerns.

Managing and Supporting Remote Workers

If you want to make the most of your relationships with your remote workers, there are ways to help manage and support these roles.

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