5 ways to improve work-life balance in distributed teams

remote working

Remote work is here to stay. And although it may sound like a cliche, that’s the truth.

Shopify, Facebook, Twitter, and other giants have already announced their support for full-time remote work for all or part of their employees.

Companies big and small reorganize the way they work to adapt to the new normal — Zoom meetings and virtual conferences are now part of our routine. But what if your remote workforce is also dispersed across the globe so that when one team opens the inbox while sipping on their morning cup of coffee, another team closes up for the day?

Organizing the work of a remote distributed team may look different for different brands, depending on business specifics and team size. Here are 5 recommendations to help companies build a stress-free working environment while enabling a better work-life blend for employees.

#1. Be mindful of the asynchronous schedule

In 2021, Portugal made headlines when it banned bosses from contacting employees outside working hours. Indeed, even before the pandemic more than half of employees reported sending and receiving emails outside working hours. Now with remote working, managing our inboxes has become a never-ending task as people just fire emails and messages at all hours.

Some may argue that the problem can be solved by turning off email alerts and notifications. But it’s not as simple as that — many employees, especially newbies, will continue to feel the psychological pressure to check their inbox and stay connected.

One of the ways to support employees’ right to disconnect is to schedule messages and emails to be sent within working hours. At UXPressia , for instance, we use Slack to keep track of our colleagues’ working hours so that we know whether it is appropriate to reach them. And if not, Slack makes it easy to schedule your message to be sent at a specific time and day.

#2. Leverage a shared calendar

When a team is distributed across different time zones and multiple countries, navigating everyone’s vacation schedule can be difficult. In addition to employees’ individual days, every country has different national holidays, laws, and customs.

A shared calendar like Google Calendar, Calendly, or others not only provides an instant overview of everyone’s meetings but also helps keep track of leaves and days off of employees. This makes it much easier for team members to see who is available now and who is enjoying their vacation. It’s also a good idea to have a chat or a channel synched with the shared calendar, where you can send notifications about your colleagues’ days off and vacations on a daily basis.

#3. Implement well-being programs

The initiative to improve work-life balance for distributed teams can go much further than just flexible hours and shared calendars. An effective corporate wellness program is a crucial resource that can help employees improve their emotional and physical well-being while also driving creativity and innovation.

There are different ways to go about incorporating wellness programs into a distributed work environment. Some companies, for instance, offer subscriptions to wellness platforms like Headspace, others partner with health insurance carriers to conduct regular health screenings. A wellness initiative can also include:

  • Social events (seminars, workshops, team building activities);
  • Resources (nutrition programs, online assessments);
  • Group or team challenges;
  • Fitness classes, and more.

#4. Check in with your employees

Each company is unique, and your employees’ needs may be completely different from what’s needed in another organization. This is particularly true for a multi-national distributed team where work-life balance can have different meanings depending on a cultural perspective.

By regularly checking in with your team members you will be able to see what your employees truly need. This feedback can help you make sure you are moving in the right direction or it can highlight the gaps, like insufficient social interactions or blurred lines between work and personal time, so you can take the necessary steps to address them.

#5. Test innovative ideas

New problems require new solutions. To help the distributed workforce find balance in their lives, industry leaders are trying out innovative approaches.

Capital One, for example, has launched “Invest in Yourself Day”. Associates get one Friday per month to focus on themselves, whether this means learning a new professional skill or devoting this time to mental health.

WilsonHCG has implemented an unlimited paid time off (PTO) program. As part of this program, employees are not assigned a given number of days off per year. Instead, they can take as much or as little time off as they need to rest, recharge, and balance their work and personal responsibilities. And based on the feedback, PTO is a win-win for everybody.

The bottom line

It goes without saying that excess work isn’t good for anyone — yet, a recent study of over 3 mln employees has revealed that the average workday increased by 48.5 minutes.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance, especially for a distributed workforce, can be challenging as without in-person cues it’s difficult to keep tabs on employees’ mental and physical health. But a distributed team is still a team, and many practices that would be effective in an office setting (like regular communication or wellness initiatives) are applicable with some adjustments, too. However, to build a thriving remote culture, organizations need to step up and find innovative and unique ways to address the work-life balance challenge.