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How leaders can help home workers stay mentally…
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Mental health thuiswerkers
Talent & labor organization

How leaders can help home workers stay mentally healthy

Many of us have been working from home in an effort to slow down the coronavirus and ensure business continuity. At the same time, we've been taking care of our family, distracted by news updates, worried about the future, checking our smartphone 100 times a day. And at the end of the day, we've been tired, but not always satisfied. Because hey, did our work make sense today? Was what we did adequate?

Gabriel García Márquez has already showed us how to keep love in times of cholera, but how can leaders help their employees stay mentally healthy and productive in times of corona?

As extraordinary as our situation has been, in essence it's been about motivation. How do you keep your employees motivated in a context that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous?

Science offers the answer. Decades of research in psychology show that you need to fulfill three fundamental psychological needs to achieve autonomous motivation and psychological well-being (Self-Determination Theory; Deci & Ryan, 2000). In other words, you need three elements (the "ABC needs") to create well-being and productivity.

Let's take a closer look at these three elements.
Kathleen Vangronsvelt LR
by Kathleen Vangronsvelt, PhD | March 24, 2020
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Mental health thuiswerkers

1. Structured autonomy

People need autonomy. They need to be able to initiate their own actions, choose their behavior, decide for themselves what they invest in.

This should hardly be a problem today. Home workers can choose when, what and at what pace they work. But autonomy without any structure can be counterproductive. Especially given the uncertainty and ambiguity of the situation we have been finding ourselves in. So provide that structure. State clearly what you expect from your team members, make concrete agreements, discuss with your team members how you will organize the work.

Even more than under normal circumstances: explain the underlying reason for tasks, why they have to be done. Clarify how certain tasks are connected to other tasks, to the end result, to the bigger picture. In other words, make it clear how important it is to devote time and energy to the tasks at hand.

2. Connection

People need connection (belongingness). They need to feel loved by others, and have warm, close relationships.

See this as an opportunity for your employees to spend more time with their families. Don't ask them to make up every hour in the evening that they spent playing with the kids or caring for their family.

Make sure your employees can stay in touch virtually. Organize virtual team meetings or coffee breaks. Start a conversation about how they find meaning in their work and what the team or organization can do in these challenging times. Encourage one-on-one Skype calls with colleagues from other departments. Create a WhatsApp to share the funny moments this particular situation brings.

3. Competence

People need competence. They need to have control over the output of their behavior, they need to be able to complete tasks, they need to be able to succeed.

Set clear goals, with clear deadlines. Split large projects into short, manageable chunks. Having a clear goal helps your employees focus and deal with distractions. And of course, some clarity today is especially welcome anyway.

Make sure all (digital) tools and necessary information are easily accessible. Make sure employees know when and how to reach you and other colleagues to discuss work-related topics. Create pairs of colleagues who can help each other get to grips with virtual meetings, online learning, communicating via social media. See this as an opportunity to learn and develop new skills.

Do you know any success stories or concrete examples yourself of how you organize your work based on these three fundamental needs? Or do you still have questions? Let us know! Contact kathleen.vangronsvelt@ams.ac.be.

Read more?

Van den Broeck, A. & Vangronsvelt, K. (2019). Self Determination Theory. In de Lange, W., De Prins, P. & Van der Heijden, B. (2019), Canon van HRM: 50 Theorieën over een vakgebied in ontwikkeling. Vakmedianet, Alphen aan den Rijn.

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