We live in such uncertain times that we are no strangers to the feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness. We cannot work in the same building as our co-workers anymore and cannot socialise over lunch. With all of these feelings bottled up inside of us, our mental health struggles can sometimes cascade into our work life too.
It’s hard to tell what a team member is going through when you see them only over video calls, that too just a couple of times per week. So how can employers help employees with their mental health while working remotely? It is hard, but not impossible.
In this article, we share with you six ways you can support the mental health of your team members while working from home –
#1 Check in with your team regularly
Remote working can be isolating for many employees. Days with no communication can make them feel disconnected and anxious. Virtually checking in with your remote team can help alleviate this feeling of loneliness and help the employee in more ways than one.
Start by having a daily huddle for 15 minutes where you ask your team member how they’re doing. Wait for the full answer and then address concerns if any. You can also use this opportunity to outline tasks for the day. In addition to this daily catch-up, schedule a weekly or monthly video call with the entire team to establish team bonds.
#2 Offer “Mental Health Days”
Just like how an employee is not expected to come into work if they’ve had an injury, mental health concerns should also be dealt with in the same way. If a team member is suffering from an episode of anxiety, they will not be able to give you their best performance. Like any other ailment, they will need time to recover from this too.
One of the best ways to promote employee wellbeing in your company is to allow Mental Health Days. These days should be available to employees if they don’t feel up-to-par mentally.
#3 Use technology to beat loneliness
A 2020 study by Buffer reveals that 20% of employees find loneliness to be their biggest struggle while working from home. These numbers are alarming because remote work is here to stay at least till early next year. So how can managers make employees feel less lonely?
You’re right if you thought of technology.
Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom make it easy for teams to work together even when they are miles apart! From sharing quick updates and GIFS to brainstorming and conducting webinars, these tools build team spirit in ways that emails will never be able to.
#4 Socialise and have fun virtually
Along the lines of #3, encourage employees to communicate even if what they have to say is not work-related. Create a separate channel on your instant messaging platform to help employees share pictures, recipes or funny stories, just like how they would at work. To shrink the distance, conduct virtual activities like a Coffee Catchup, Happy Hour or go the healthier route and organise a Yoga class!
There are numerous ways you can bring your remote team together. All it needs is a bit of research and planning!
#5 Make work-life balance a priority
For many employees working from home usually means a better work-life balance. But sometimes, remote working can push some workers into the “overworking” territory. Since work and leisure take place in the same physical space, some remote employees find it hard to switch off or take a break. This may lead to working way too many hours and eventually, to burnout.
Help employees achieve a work-life balance by deciding on a fixed number of hours per day, not giving them work outside of work hours and of course, leading by example. Show your team that you value your time outside of work by sharing that you’re taking 15 minutes off to go for a walk or have taken a few days off and won’t be reachable by email. It’s essential to look after yourself, so you can be there to support your team.
#6 Introduce Mental Health Surveys
Even though the stigma around the topic of health has significantly decreased over the years, it is crucial to understand that not everyone is comfortable discussing their own struggles. This can be tougher with remote employees as they might not want to burden their manager or not feel close enough with their manager to share their problems.
To monitor what employees feel with respect to their mental health, send out a companywide survey a couple of times every year. Ask questions that aren’t intrusive, but let you assess wellbeing. Such as,
How do you feel at work ( Use emojis or adjectives to circle)
On a scale of 1-10, how stressed would you say you are?
How would you describe your work-life balance?
Do you feel like you can approach your manager if you have mental issues at work?
Do you have any suggestions on how we can do better?
These questions will not only serve as preventative measures but also help you intervene before things have a chance to escalate.
We understand that the uncertainty right now can be disturbing for many of us. If you feel lonely or need to speak to someone, here are a few free support resources from HSE that will help you out. These services include online, phone, and text support.