Supporting the mental health of your remote team
With most remote work policies hurriedly set up in response to the pandemic, many companies aren’t doing all they can to support the mental health of their employees.
A survey by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health reported that 45% of employees felt a decrease in their mental health while working from home. Four out of five also reported that they find it difficult to unplug at the end of the day.
Yet for many years, advocates of remote work also highlight the flexibility and opportunities remote work offers to workers. With proper support in place, you can help your team feel safe and productive even while working from home, even if they are putting in more hours than usual.
Remote Work and Mental Health
In a remote work setup, many feel the biggest issue is the isolation.
You don’t get chance encounters with your teammates. There are no water cooler chats or team lunches, so it can get quite lonely and isolated.
For team leaders, there’s much less power to observe. This isn’t about monitoring productivity. In an office setting, it would be easier to walk around and see if someone doesn’t seem to be doing so well.
It’s easier to reach out with a quick: “Hey. How are you? Is everything okay?”
In a remote team, it’s harder to know when to do that. Employees may put on a brave face for your calls once or twice a week, and that is if they even have their cameras on.
You might try declaring you’re open to talk about whatever, including mental health issues, but it only ends up shifting the responsibility to someone who’s already having a tough time.
What can you do for yourself and your team?
As a team member, here’s some things you can do to lessen the burden of remote work on your mental health and those in your team.
- Check in on others. Work friendships can still thrive in remote settings. Get to know your coworkers and build real relationships.
- Respect other’s work hours. They might have their notifications off outside of work hours (and so should you!), but consider scheduling that email or message for the next work day if it isn’t urgent.
- Remember to take breaks and remind your coworkers to do the same too. Take care of your meals. Stand up and stretch or walk around a bit. Rest your eyes!
Finally, set your work hours and plan your day. This makes it easier for you to unplug when your designated work hours are over.
Another way to draw a line between work and rest is to avoid working in your bedroom or recreational areas, if you have the ability.
What can leaders do for their remote team?
Leaders can make a huge difference by nurturing a sense of safety in their team. Bravely cofounder Mel shares what she does in a podcast with Building Remotely:
Lay Down The Groundwork
Mel makes sure to create a culture where everyone feels safe to speak up or say something. Building that psychological safety is really important.
There are many ways to do it, but here’s what Mel suggests:
When somebody says something, really listen. Don’t hijack the conversation. Actually sit down and listen to what they have to say.
Be transparent and brave enough to be vulnerable. This doesn’t mean coming in crying or with big emotions. Be honest when you need mental health days. Set an example and make them feel it’s okay to take a break too.
Start Conversations Regularly
The second thing is to start conversations. Very often, your team will think you’re too busy and will only be burdened if they open up about their concerns.
If you’re the leader, you can start the conversation and just listen. That way, they can feel they will be heard and issues can be addressed.
For many, remote work provides lifestyle benefits that positively influence mental health. It can also affect your mental health and those around you. Protect your mental well-being by trying to stay in touch with your social support network and switch off those notifications when you are finished for the day!
Want to learn more about making your team feel psychologically safe in a remote work setup? Listen to the complete podcast or check out the transcription here.
If you are looking for a well-being solution for your remote team, you can check out Bravely for businesses, get in touch with us to find out more.