11 Aug 2020 By: Shelby Shaffer
“Loneliness is a threat to public health, much like obesity and substance use,” she says. “The research tells us those lonely people are more likely to become ill, experience cognitive decline and die earlier than those with more social lives.”For those of us who were fortunate enough to remain employed throughout this pandemic, remote work was a sudden change we might not have been prepared for. We no longer had our set office environment. We no longer had all our preferred tools or accommodations. With nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce working from home, employers should be making moves to help improve mental health for remote employees. There are a few steps employees can take to save their mental health and steps employers can take to help their remote employees continue to feel valued and part of the team.
How Employers Can Improve Mental Health for Remote EmployeesKeeping employee morale high while everyone is working remotely can be a challenge. You want your employees to be productive, but you also want them to feel valued and appreciated during these hard times.
Regular Check-InsIn a 2020 State Remote Work report, loneliness is ranked as one of the biggest challenges remote workers face in their everyday life. How can an employer help to improve the mental health of remote employees? By doing regular check-ins, both work and non-work related. (Black Enterprise)
Image from Visual CapitalistWork-related check-ins should be a given. Employers should be checking in with all employees to see if they are on track, if they need a hand, or if they have any questions about their assigned responsibilities. Non-work-related check-ins can be done one-on-one or in a group. These are much more informal. This type of check-in can be done to make sure remote employees are feeling included, or if the overall morale of the team seems to be slacking. Keeping in touch with employees on a non-work related basis is a great way to show value in their overall wellbeing.
Offer Additional BenefitsDuring this crazy time, it might be a good idea to offer all employees added benefits. Employers can build relationships with therapists, spiritual healers, masseuses, gyms, or yoga studios to offer employees services at discounted prices. A friend of mine works for a company that partnered with a local yoga studio. Employees at her company are able to go to yoga classes or various guided meditation classes at a discounted price. I asked how this improved her mental health as a remote employee, and she said not only did it help her realign her thoughts and create inner peace, but she felt like her employer really cared about her wellbeing during this pandemic. Besides offering additional services, a pandemic like this might be a good time to evaluate the different insurance options available to employees. Do employees have coverage for mental health services? If not, making this change might seriously help the mental health of any of your employees.
Take Advantage of Video CallsWhen quarantine started, the Zoom boom happened as well. Everyone was using Zoom or other video conferencing software to connect with his or her team for meetings, check-ins with remote employees, and even hosting team happy hours! Seeing the team “in person” can really boost morale and allow everyone to know his or her team is still alive and well and all going through similar hardships. Video calls are far more engaging than audio calls. In an interview with Forbes, Srini Koushik, CTO for Magellan Health says
“Once video engages during a call, the entire feel and etiquette of the meeting changes. Participants can see and be seen. Any sense of distance is removed. There’s no longer any semblance of “out of sight, out of mind.” The results are superior levels “of closeness and engagement."Video conferencing is a great way to keep your dispersed team connected and aligned. Using today’s state-of-the-art, cloud-delivered video conferencing is the closest thing to working together in person.
Express GratitudeI strongly doubt that it has never hurt an employer to show gratitude towards their employees. Expressing gratitude can help boost morale and make them feel appreciated. Work can get stressful, especially during a national pandemic. Employers should still reward good work, even if they are far away from their employees. Thanking employees individually for their hard work and effort will speak volumes. Gratitude can be shown privately during a one-on-one or publicly if the whole team should be made awake of a job well done. Leadership and family expert, Dr. Susan Kuczmarski suggests employers should view praise as an on-going and essential ingredient of people management.
“Praise creates positive energy to fire-up the team. Praise is the fuel that energizes and stimulates group work. Critical to building morale and productivity, praise gives team members a vision of where they’re going that is positive and a sense that they are moving forward."
How Employers Can Encourage Remote Employees to Manage Their Own Mental HealthWhile employers can provide different resources for mental health, and keep employees engaged throughout the workweek, ultimately the responsibility is on the remote employees themselves to make sure he or she is getting what they need to remain healthy and stable. Employers can encourage remote employees to follow these tips to help maintain his or her mental health during quarantine. The more employers can normalize remote employees’ workdays, and continue to make remote employees feel like he or she is still an active and valued member of the team, the more remote employees will feel appreciated - boosting his or her mental health. The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests the following for maintaining a routine to save mental health for remote employees. A new “work from home” routine will help remote employees get into the best mindset to feel more productive and keep the boundaries between work and home from blurring.
Stick to a Regular Sleep ScheduleCreating a new remote work routine starts with a defined sleep schedule. While it’s easier than ever to sleep in or stay up late, that won’t benefit remote employees in the long run. The best way remote employees can maintain their mental health is to stick to a schedule similar to one they’d keep if they were still reporting to the office.
“Most people equate losing sleep with having more time to enjoy the day or getting things done. Ironically, when they are sleep deprived, they enjoy the day less and are so unfocused that they are much slower in getting things done. You're able to get more done on a good night's sleep, not less."