Mental health in the workplace is a serious concern for employers and employees and has only been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Remote companies are struggling with keeping themselves and their teams emotionally and mentally fit while working remotely (and battling lockdown culture).
Generally speaking, being mentally and emotionally healthy means an individual realises their own capabilities, can work fruitfully, and can cope with the normal pressures of everyday life.
That said, mental and emotional health can mean a variety of things and the motivations behind a remote mental wellbeing strategy can be equally diverse. Companies want to support their employees’ wellbeing and simultaneously have to ensure business productivity and growth. Studies have shown that these are actually not at all mutually exclusive - healthy people are naturally more engaged and productive at work.
Being emotionally and mentally healthy also doesn’t necessarily have to emphasise certain emotional states like happiness and joy. Health is also a subjective experience and your employees will think of it in different ways.
Maintaining your employees’ mental and emotional health means providing the right kind of support for all your employees. Here we outline 5 key steps to develop a solid strategy to support your remote workforce mentally and emotionally.
Make Mental Health a Priority
The first step to supporting your employees is to actively make mental and emotional wellbeing a priority for your company. Don’t simply include mental health in the fineprint of your company policy. Rather, communicate to your employees that you are aware of mental health as an issue of remote working and show that your company is there to support them.
The onus isn’t only on HR staff. Managers and C-level executives should be a good example and genuinely show interest in how wellbeing is handled at their company. For example, by communicating the company’s approach to mental wellbeing during team meetings. Show employees that it is safe to reach out for help and tell them whom they can speak to when they are feeling unwell. Though it may sound simple, acknowledging a problem and showing that you care can go a long way.
Provide Progressive Benefits
Progressive benefits have the power to provide employees with the additional support they need to take care of themselves. These include things like flexible working or remote work allowances to build a healthy workspace. You could also include mental health days of leave or provide a policy that clearly states that sick days also apply to days off for mental wellbeing.
Consider also paying for apps, like Headspace or Downdog, that allow for short exercises and meditation sessions that employees can access individually. Tools like Remote Social are also brilliant for organising joint wellbeing activity sessions for the whole team.
Providing Employee Assistance Programmes, like Kooth, can also be really helpful. Employees can reach out to online counsellors anonymously and free of charge. Just make sure that you are using a service that handles data protection compliantly and let your employees know that your company has zero access to their personal data, including who has used the service.
Access to apps like 3SSENTIA or Moodbit can also help individual employees stay on top of their own wellbeing by tracking their day to day moods and emotional states. One of the most important steps to sound mental and emotional health is to recognise signs of stress and illness as they come up. Progressive benefits might not only help avoid mental illness, but can also help you and your employees read the signs and act accordingly.
Socialising and Building Relationships
Socialising and building relationships amongst remote teams can be really tough in the day to day. Forming friendships and having a friendly social environment at work can do wonders for morale and team-building. Some teams, like Avaaz or Buffer, have company retreats to provide a space for employees to meet in person.
But there are also a range of apps that can help in the daily work environment. Starting fun team channels over Slack where the team can communicate informally as a whole or privately, or using apps like Hallway or Donut can provide the space for spontaneous brainstorming and doodling. Apps like Remote Social can also bring you a bespoke virtual space where employees can choose to come and socialise. Keeping this optional is important, though, so no one feels pressured to join in.
Apps like Cassopeia also use relationship analytics to keep track of your team’s overall wellness. They offer actionable suggestions to help you build and improve the relationships within your team for better engagement and wellbeing.
Encourage Routines and Work Tracking
Routines can be enormously beneficial for maintaining mental health. This does not necessarily mean working the same hours every single day. If your company allows flexible working hours, a workable and healthy routine may be to take a longer break over lunch or in the afternoon. The point is to find a routine that is manageable for individual employees and the team.
Tracking work through to-do lists and project management apps like Asana or Notion can also be really helpful for employees to keep abreast of all activities and build self-awareness of their work habits.
But at the end of the day, the best way to support employees’ wellbeing is to ask them directly. Create a work environment where it is okay to reach out for help. You can use engagement tools or surveys where employees can express concerns about their workload and whether they feel comfortable asking for help.
Make sure your company’s managers and HR personnel are trained to spot signs of burnout early and how to check up on employees sensitively. This can be during regular one-on-one sessions, but a manager can also reach out directly when they feel someone is consistently overworked. A team can also agree to check up on each other, so there is more community support.
Encourage your employees to take breaks. This means to eat and drink, but also to get up, move around, and do exercise. It also means encouraging your remote workforce not to work late, on public holidays in their countries, and to take their vacation days.
Workplace apps like Welltok and Sprout can help introduce and reward holistic wellbeing behaviours, like taking frequent breaks, through their fun and engaging platforms. More than simply offering the same old advice, these smart apps recognise that each person is different and will need different kinds of support. Their software programmes are tailored to company and individual employee needs.
At the end of the day, managing a remote workforce and supporting their well-being is a complex task, but the potential rewards are well worth the effort. Omnipresent can help you employ remotely and compliantly by taking over all your remote employment HR admin and payroll. We also help you develop bespoke benefits packages so you can offer your remote workforce the best care. All you need to do is focus on high ROI activities and engaging your remote team for sustained company growth.