Perceived Organisational Support: Why caring for employees is important for remote workers

By Dr. Lew Tek Yew

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many challenges to people’s lives and changes to work practices around the world. New norms such as physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, using of hand-sanitisers, and wearing of masks have emerged to break the chain of the infection. Remote working has also become commonplace, allowing individuals to work safely from home.

The term ‘remote e-worker’ is used to describe individuals who use technology to work remotely from the main group office at any time or place (Grant et al., 2019). Remote e-working is usually associated with the positive effects of improved productivity, flexible approaches to work and an increase in job satisfaction and  a better balance between work and lives (Grant et al., 2013).

However, remote e-working has also been linked with poor well-being, higher levels of stress and communication overload, which could subsequently affect job effectiveness and performance (Grant et al., 2019).

Grant et al. (2019) found four factors in the remote working experience – work-life interference, productivity, organisational trust and flexibility – based on a range of theoretically relevant aspects of the e-working experience in four main areas: job effectiveness, relationship with the organisation, well-being and work-life balance.

Due to the challenges of working remotely, organisations need to ensure adequate support is given to their employees, develop good communication systems with trust, grant some flexibility to the ways work is done, ensure that employees enjoy a good balance between work and life, as well as be concerned with the employees’ mental health and psychological well-being.

The Organisational Support Theory (OST) proposes that employees who perceive the extent to which the organisation values their contributions and cares about their well-being (POS), and employees who perceive high levels of organisational support, are more likely to reciprocate the organisation with positive attitudes like higher levels of affective commitment, and favourable work behaviours such as commitment to organisational goals, better job performance and lower intention to leave.

Leaders who recognise and value the contributions of their employees and care for their well-being will positively influence the job performance and well-being of the remote workers.  Specifically, leaders need to demonstrate compassionate leadership behaviours which consist of six distinctive compassionate leadership behaviours: integrity, accountability, empathy, authenticity, presence and dignity (Shuck et al., 2019).


Integrity is contextualised as the sharing of information (accurate, timely, and transparent), clearly communicating motivations and goals (vs. hidden agendas and plans), and handling conflict or disagreements directly (not encouraging gossip).


Accountability is about the ideals of action-oriented responsibility. Compassionate leaders hold people accountable for their work, are not hesitant to address difficult performance issues and carry out consequences for sub-performance.


Presence is operationalised as a personal state of awareness and attention to the current moment, situation, and surroundings. It characterises a leader’s ability to deeply listen to others using a kind of social intelligence. Such actions signal to the organisation that employees are valuable and valued, and they enhance employees’ feelings of competence.


Empathy is depicted through an understanding of another’s perspective, thoughts and/or feelings, and taking action.


Leaders characterise their efforts to remain authentic by showing vulnerability, and openness in sharing their experiences (including success and failures) with others.


Dignity involves the ways in which leaders honour the fundamental worth of each human being they encounter throughout their day. Dignity involves acknowledging the value and contribution of each person throughout their day as a strategy to build positive experiences and acknowledge a real sense of humanness with co-workers.

In sum, organisations need to provide the necessary support to their remote workers, value their contributions and care about their well-being so that their job performance and psychological well-being will be enhanced during these challenging times.

Dr. Lew Tek-Yew is an Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Faculty of Business, Curtin University Malaysia. He is also the Faculty’s Associate Dean of Learning & Teaching. Dr. Lew’s research interests include human resource management, organisational behaviour, psychological capital, organisational commitment, turnover intention, mindfulness at work, destination image, tourist satisfaction, revisit intention, and higher education. He holds a PhD in Human Resource Development and has published over 25 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, International Journal of Leisure and Tourism Marketing, Journal of Asia Business Studies, World Review of Entrepreneurship, Sarawak Development Journal and Bankers’ Journal Malaysia.