According to the Australian government, almost half of all Australian adults will face mental health issues at some point in their life. It’s something that the corporate world is finally beginning to talk about – albeit not enough – perhaps heightened by the new ways of living and working which have been brought to the forefront by the pandemic. It’s great to see the conversation around mental health becoming less taboo, to see everyone being more conscious of what others might be going through.
And that includes employers, too. With so many businesses still working remotely, at least in part if not in full, staying on top of your team’s mental health might seem more challenging. But there are things we can and should be doing to manage mental health remotely; here are just a few of my favourite ideas for doing so.
Encourage real, regular breaks
One of the biggest issues leading to burnout for remote workers is the feeling of having to “prove” they’re still working hard. This often leads to people disregarding their own needs – time to re-energise, refresh and simply take a break – due to the pressure of being present virtually.
As a business leader, you need to make sure your staff are taking time-outs throughout the day. That might mean incentivising them to go for a walk and get some steps in, or simply encouraging them to log out and switch off at regular intervals. Just like they would in the office, whether running out to get some lunch or hanging in the kitchen area for ten minutes to make a coffee, doing so while working from home can really provide crucial time for them to address their thoughts and decompress.
Equally, reiterate that off means off: log out, close the laptop, switch off your screen or just get away for a bit without checking emails. This isn’t something you just expect, but require of them – for their own wellbeing and resulting productivity.
Set up a virtual water cooler
For some, isolation wasn’t just about being stuck at home, unable to go out or hit the gym – it was a complete lack of human contact. Human interaction is something we all need, and company is what many people miss most about the office. Setting up a virtual meeting room online, a safe space for employees to drop into and out of throughout the day, can really promote that office chatter and connection we all crave in the workplace.
There are many online tools you could use to do this, and don’t be surprised when it becomes a bit of a haven for those who thrive on that collegial feeling with their co-workers; they can drop in to say hi, share ideas, let off steam or just chat for a while. Doing so could provide a vital link to building your team-feel in spite of everyone working remotely.
Check in – regularly, personally, openly
Sometimes, just having someone to speak to can really help; there’s truth to the old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Make sure your employees know that they can talk to you, whether as their manager, colleague, or even as a friend.
It’s not possible to be positive all the time, especially if your mental health is suffering; your staff need to know that you’re taking a realistic, humanistic view of things. If work is tough, they should be able to tell you about it. If they’re having a down day and their work is suffering, make them feel comfortable enough to share this. Conversations about mental health encompass the good, the bad and the ugly; so, be a non-judgemental ear, offer help where you’re able to and, sometimes, just listen.
Life might be returning to normal here in Melbourne, but let’s keep the conversation going. How do you manage mental health remotely for your team?