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Manager’s support crucial when we work remotely


“The manager’s support, giving regular feedback and showing concern for each individual, becomes even more important when many are working remotely who are not used to doing so,” says Sofie Bjärntoft, researcher on flexible work at the University of Gävle.

Arbeta hemifrån

Sweden is in second place in Europe when it comes to the number pf people who work remotely, so working remotely is well established in Sweden. But today, when new groups need to start working remotely, we need managers who can help them organize their work and who realise that staff members cannot be dealt with in the same manner now, as when they were in the office.

Linda Widar

Linda Widar

For three years, Linda Widar has been doing research on how working remotely affects our health at the University of Gävle. Providing staff members with adequate technological and digital equipment is of course important, but managers must also provide a clear framework for remote work. Besides, it is important to maintain both the formal and informal contact and social interaction which all come naturally when we gather physically at a workplace.

Maintaining social contact with videoconferencing options, having virtual coffee breaks together for example, is important so that everything isn’t only about checking work results.

“If we lose day-to-day contacts, there is a risk that people who work remotely to a great extent lose their sense of coherence at work, which in turn can affect work motivation negatively,” Linda Widar says.

“Let’s call it a week”

Remote work demands a much more active manager, Linda Widar points out, both when it comes to providing continuous feedback and to providing a framework for the work tasks. To clearly indicate when it’s time to finish becomes a way to help staff members to limit their working hours.

“When you have completed this task, it’s time to call it a week. Managers need to be clear about the fact that we are not supposed to work more just because we are working from home,” Linda Widar says.

Expectations on how available we should be

Sofie Bjärntoft

Sofie Bjärntoft

Sofie Bjärntoft says that the possibilities of flexible work can increase the individual’s expectations that work can be carried out at any time, as everyone is working from home and we only communicate by using digital tools.

“It may not be the expectations of managers and colleagues that they respond to. It could be their own idea that they are supposed to be available in the evening and during weekends.”

According to Sofie, it is important to make expectations clear within the group, and to establish a permissive culture in which the manager is a good role model. One piece of good advice is to make it clear when you are available, for instance between what times you are available on Skype, on Outlook and on the phone, and to use voicemail.

“It becomes easier to relax if I have communicated when I am available and when I am not, and when I will be back, “Sofie Bjärntoft says.

Can become very lonely

According to Sofie Bjärntoft, it is even more important now that managers maintain individual social contact with all employees to that no one drops out of sight. Social support and a sense of community are essential when we work remotely.

“Managers should promote regular zoom meetings and ‘zoom-coffees’ and carry out follow-ups on everybody’s well-being as well as check how work progresses, both for individuals and for the group. This is important for us to stay healthy.”

But every individual also needs to take responsibility for maintaining a sense of community, which includes support from colleagues, so that it doesn’t get lost.

“It can become very lonely to sit all alone, and even if there are meetings, they may be focused on nothing but work, so that the social dimension that usually is present at lunch and coffee breaks may be lost,” Sofie Bjärntoft points out.

Both researchers claim that in general, flexible work may affect the balance between one’s working life and one’s private life in a positive manner, and many prefer to have that sense of freedom.

Another important result is that all studies on remote work and health emphasize that the manager’s ability to communicate, to give support and to provide guidelines is vital.


Sofie Bjärntoft, researcher in occupational health sciences at the University of Gävle
Phone: 070-377 57 76
E-mail: sofie.bjarntoft@hig.se

Linda Widar, researcher in occupational health sciences at the University of Gävle
Phone: 072-856 02 72
E-mail: linda.widar@hig.se

Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Photo: Anna Sällberg
Photo Sofie Bjärntoft: Private
Photo Linda Widar: Private

Published by: Douglas Öhrbom Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2020-04-26
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)