A remote team working happily, art style: gauche

The Shocking Truth about Remote Work: How to Build a Happy and High-Performing Team

15 Min Read
The Shocking Truth about Remote Work: How to Build a Happy and High-Performing Team

After graduating from the business school, Cheryl joined a tech giant in LA as the head of operations in 2018. Working in close tandem with the management team at the corporation was one of her greatest delights at work apart from the benefits that poured in, in ways of a big sum and tangible perks. She cited huge learning just from a small conversation at work as one of the reasons for her high satisfaction at work. In addition, everyday banter with her immediate work colleagues gave her a sense of camaraderie that often translated into her top performance, quarter after quarter, year after year.

As we know, the above series of events were hindered by the huge wave of COVID pandemic in 2019, only worsening in the following years. Now that the pandemic is not a subject of abject concern anymore, we are going back to normal. But over time, we’ve also realized that this normal is only a myth until we define what the new work normal looks like. It might take months, years, or even decades until we can be certain what a normal work environment is. 

This huge shift affected Cheryl a lot more than she’d initially predicted for it. She thought that carrying this world online would be a similar practice but as operations got more convoluted, she spent a lot more hours at her desk at home than she was previously. To add further insult to injury, there was barely any interaction with her fellow employees aside from peremptory conversations. 

Two years after they made the shift to hybrid work, she found herself wanting to go back to the time and the place when work was more fulfilling but it remains a distant reality. Her performance was dwindling each day and the people around her reported the same decrease in morale and performance. Fortunately, when she highlighted this problem to the leaders of the organization, they were able to listen and mitigate this problem at its roots while they continued working remotely. 

Now in 2023, with the ever-widening physical distance, they are able to maintain the in situ sense of community. Cheryl and her colleagues are able to now enjoy the perks of a remote work environment with higher morale and increased productivity. 

You might be wondering what this secret magic potion was. Don’t worry, we are going to tell you all about it and some more compassionate approaches you can take as a leader to help you and your team make the most of the remote work environment. 

But before we go further, let’s ensure what we are dealing with here so that our solutions can be more well-founded and our strategies truly transformative. 

So How Can Remote Work Affect Your Team’s Mental Health?

As seen above in Cheryl’s case, remote work can lead to a feeling of isolation and loneliness. While the benefit of increased autonomy remains, interactions can now be limited to everyday operations which in turn destroys the threads of community and togetherness that tie teams together. And as work permeates life, the boundaries between the two become fuzzy. Work ceases to be exciting because it’s everywhere. Most people complain that they don’t have a personal life anymore since they have started working from home. It is not difficult to imagine why. Your work desk becomes your lunch desk, the working hours suddenly become all the working hours as productivity declines and procrastination increases. This also dictates the ways of personal and work interactions as everything now becomes digital leading to digital fatigue. A recent study has found that one in every three people suffers from digital fatigue. 

The absence of physical proximity, the blurring of personal and professional boundaries, and the isolating nature of virtual interactions, in cohesion, create a perfect storm for the erosion of mental health. The greatest culprit is the reluctance to even accept these emotional and mental changes as normal and the overall denial of plummeting mental health. 

As leaders, you need to be compassionate to lend your employees a lending ear as they struggle to keep up with the changing work environment. As a team, both you and your team need to register that although it may not seem like it, remote work is a big change that you’re still learning to integrate into your lives as cited by this study here.

With this acceptance, you can operate with a carte blanche and create an optimum environment for your people to thrive remotely. Here are a few outlines that might help you in creating this environment: 

  • Lay the Foundation of Clear Communication

Yes, it’s true that conversations around mental health are on the rise, however, how it translates into work might be a topic of debate. In this rickety environment where mental health may still be a stigma, it’s your job to create a clear line of communication where these problems are welcomed with compassion and proactiveness. Rather than have them suffer in silence, it’s always better to have a space to allow them to air their problems. Hire external resources if you have to. Schedule regular check-ins. In extremis, it’s the mutual support between you and your team that’ll continue to lodge the company upwards. The bottom line is that your company is only as profitable as the well-being of your employees, and well-being begins with clear communication. 

  • Help Them Separate Work-Life

What we tend to forget in the modern work environment is that work is only a part of life, albeit crucial. What leads to overall well-being is a series of aspects that make life wholesome and happy. This understanding is of grave importance in remote work as work starts to spill over life without warning. The otherwise limited work hours become the only mode of operation at home, sometimes work peeps into the bedroom or over meal, and conversations become more work-centered than life-centered. While these seem like little slips, over a due course of time, they create confusion and imbalance. It’s only wise to establish clear routines that keep even the chances of these happening at bay. Ensure that workspaces are only for work so that other activities of meals and hobbies have their own territories in minds and homes. Encourage your employees to do the same. As a leader, you can also help your employees define their work hours so that they can also keep up their productivity levels (remember Pomodoro technique?). 

  • Embrace Connections and Collaboration 

The fact that social relationships are a bedrock for sustainable mental well-being is not just a nascent study anymore. Check out this report. The pandemic only brought the need for social connection as a fundamental need into sharp relief. To put it in short, isolation is the new cigarette when it comes to being detrimental to one’s well-being. On a personal level as well, you must have witnessed the synergy of teams working together and the way it brings out creativity and fun in your team as a whole even during the most difficult times. As an organization, you must extend this synergy online as well. Have them talk to you and each other regarding problems. Encourage brainstorms. Encourage online communities. You may also experiment with virtual team-building exercises and see what works best for you and your team. 

  • It All Begins Inside

As much as one can shift the causal nexus outside, the root of mental health problems lies inside one’s own mind. While work can be fulfilling when done the right way, it can also become a way to escape the constant problems that go on gnawing at the mind. It’s essential to address these problems at their root levels and that’s where practices of self-care like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness come in. By embracing these practices yourself, you can also direct your employees to do the same. You might face internal resistance initially because these practices don’t yield immediate effects but as a leader, you also recognise the value of long-term investments and you can also encourage your team to do the same by providing them necessary tools and resources for self-care. 

  • Manager-Employee Relationships

Being a leader/manager can be one of the most fulfilling roles of your life because you are propagating not only yourself but a team of brilliant people towards collective success. This is where you delve into the power of empathy, the importance of open dialogue, and the creation of supportive structures that promote mental health. You will also learn how to navigate the delicate balance of fostering connection while respecting personal boundaries, and how to provide resources and tools that empower teams to prioritize self-care. Sometimes just by virtue of the position you’re in, you might be able to offer sound advice to your employees. Don’t hesitate when the situation presents itself. Allow yourself to be a mentor if you see yourself serving real value. 

Mental well-being is such a large subject with such a massive scope that your internal resources might not prove to be enough when you’re faced with challenges in the area. It’d prove astute to stay open to external options in such cases. 

To action the above points, you can use two mediums primarily: 

  • Teletherapy: With lives moving online, it’s fairly convenient that resources of self-care have also become accessible online. Talking to a compassionate and wise listener can be super beneficial for mental well-being. And now you can administer this resource even offline with all the tools you have. 
  • Wellness Apps: One industry that has witnessed huge growth since the pandemic is the wellness industry. Take advantage of all these resources being available online to help your remote teams as well. Not only apps for mental calmness but also apps that help teams manage time and scale productivity are helpful in this regard. 

Here is a list of tools that might prove useful to enhance remote mental health and the overall sense of community between your teams : 

  • Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Zoom provide channels for instant messages, video conferences, and sharing files, fostering connectivity. 
  • Tools such as Trello, Asana, or Monday.com help track progress and help manage remote timelines. 
  • Apps like Moodpath or Sanvello provide resources for tracking moods, journaling, and accessing mental health support.

You can also use the following resources on a more routine basis to ensure that all the ways you want to contribute to your remote teams may be realized. This also further fosters a culture of support and well-being:

  • Confidential programs such as EAPs provide counseling services, mental health resources, and support for employees and their families. Partnering with an EAP provider can ensure employees have access to professional assistance when needed.
  •  Engaging employees in virtual wellness challenges can foster a sense of community and encourage healthy habits. Platforms like Virgin Pulse or Wellable offer customizable wellness challenges, fitness tracking, and social engagement features.
  •  Arrange webinars or virtual training sessions on mental health to increase awareness, promote self-care, and share strategies for managing stress and anxiety. You can arrive at the most pertinent subjects after detailed research. 


For years, the way we have administered work is at the office. Whether we realize it or not, work shifting online is a big change for all of us involved. So it’s time to embark on a journey of personal growth and organizational transformation as the importance of a sound mind becomes real in remote working environments. It’s time to invest in resources that help you upstage the threats to your team’s well-being and forge a path toward a healthier, more fulfilling work experience for all. It is time to embrace vulnerability, listen with empathy, and build a virtual workplace where mental health thrives.

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