As lockdowns continue and talks of tightening restrictions are still abound, concern for the wellbeing of employees now working from home is on the rise. Following months of changing regulations, social distancing and blurred boundaries between work and home life, many workers are feeling the toll of remote working on their mental health. Employees across the UK are reporting an increase in feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. So how can employers combat this in a sensitive and effective way? Marketing and PR executive Lorna Boyer of Eventurous, looks at some tips to promote positive mental health across your remote workforce.
Promote mental health conversations
The easiest way to begin encouraging positive mental health is to simply open the lines of communication and increase confidence in workers to talk openly about their mental health concerns. Mental health is such an important topic but remains a very sensitive one that employees might not feel comfortable sharing. Promoting help and resources, discussions around mental health and listening to concerns will help to develop a support network that will increase employees’ confidence and trust in your business. Communication is one of the most important factors in supporting mental health issues and will go a long way to promoting the mental wellbeing of your staff.
Encourage proper breaks
With a lack of commute, chat whilst making a coffee or staff lunch break, it’s easy for employees to miss taking a break from work and to burn themselves out. And with technology right at our fingertips, it’s all too easy to continue working outside of working hours and reply to emails late into the night. A lack of proper breaks will quickly increase stress levels and have a negative effect on mental health. Encourage proper breaks with ideas such as a shared coffee or lunch break, where employees can have a social zoom call and chat amongst themselves without working through. If you regularly see someone working or sending emails out of hours – check-in with them to ensure they aren’t struggling to switch off and see if there is any support you can offer.
Incorporate virtual team-building into your company culture
Many employees working from home will find the transition from office to remote working leaves them feeling isolated and cut off from their co-workers. As social beings, this can have a big toll on our mental health. Encourage employees to get together and socialise with a fun virtual teambuilding activity. With everything from escape rooms to cookery classes, virtual teambuilding can be a great way to not only boost mood and morale but develop key skills and communication techniques. It also gets employees thinking in different ways, refreshing their minds and relieving stress.
Get active as a team
Exercise and fresh air are great for relieving stress and improving mental health and when we’re living and working in the same spaces, a change of scenery can help us to relax and refresh our minds. Promote an active lifestyle for your team with a company wide activity that will get everyone moving and away from their desks. This doesn’t have to be an activity where everyone is physically together, but you can work towards the same goal. For example, you could aim to achieve a certain number of steps in a month or walk a certain number of miles as a team. Why not incorporate your CSR goals by raising money for a charity at the same time? You could participate in an event like Move for Mind – a 30-day challenge to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind – or something similar. Activities that get staff physically active can have a great effect on boosting mental health. Doing something physical reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the release of serotonin. It additionally gives the brain something to focus on, helping to calm racing minds, especially for those who suffer with generalised anxiety disorder.
Separate work life from home life
Remote employees need to be encouraged to create boundaries between work and their personal life, something that’s difficult to manage when transitioning from office to home working. Employers and managers can help this by showing that they trust their employees and by encouraging limits to their work. By communicating how important this balance is, employees will be more likely to switch off at the end of the working day and take that all-important time for themselves to recharge. It’s also important to lead by example. Refrain from sending emails outside of work hours where possible and be aware of employees working days and hours so work communication is kept within those times. You could also consider incorporating a Friday wind-down session, such as a virtual quiz or drinks over zoom, to get everyone socialising at the end of the week and switching off ready for the weekend.
With lockdown and remote working set to continue for the foreseeable future, employee wellbeing and mental health will remain an important topic to consider. Creating a support network and keeping communication open between you and your employees is vital in retaining positive mental health. For more support and advice on mental health, visit the NHS website or check out charities such as Mind and CALM.