The rise of Covid has led to a revolution in the way we work; remote work reigns supreme, with more and more operations being handled outside the office. As we begin on our lockdown exit, however, the move to remote work seems to endure. Many companies are looking to switch to remote work entirely or shift to a hybrid model once lockdown ends – and this has significant implications on our mental health.
Though it comes with its benefits (flexibility, ability to manage a global team, etc.), remote work can impact your employee’s mental health. If you’ve not created a system that encourages active discussion on mental wellness or incorporated activities to help relieve stress, then it’s time to start rethinking your strategy.
A digital transformation has allowed for remote work to become possible, but we must also use it to create a wellbeing strategy that makes employee’s mental health a top priority. The wellbeing and mental-health space has racked up a sizable following in the past decade, but the onset of Covid has made it even more popular. According to a study done by TELUS International, 80% of workers would consider quitting their job for one that leverages mental health.
And if you think your employee’s mental health is a personal problem – think again. Poor mental health can lead to burnout and stress, resulting in poor customer interactions and low-quality work. It’s a problem that can affect all areas of your business, so you must prioritize mental health in the workplace.
To help you on your journey, we’ve compiled a list of the top 9 strategies for supporting the mental wellbeing of remote workers…
1. Encourage regular breaks
Since employees will be working from home, they’ll sometimes need a push to remind them to step away from the screen for a while. Encourage regular breaks to avoid productivity slumps– it can be anything from a short burst of exercise to a mediation session.
The key is to stress the importance of not being ‘on’ all the time. Remote workers often feel the need to be ‘seen online’ to actually be seen as doing work – this shouldn’t be the case!
2. Provide a social element to working
Recreate the office banter and company culture by providing a social element to remote work. Alongside your usual company ‘check-ins’, make sure you create communication channels that allow employees to socialize and get to know one another. This will help ensure your business’s online success while everything remains remote, giving employees a space to let off steam and connect with fellow remote workers.
Consider setting up communication channels such as Donut or Watercooler; all virtual meet-ups that act as social coffee breaks online. As well as channels that focus on in-work communication, be sure to provide those that are unrelated to work or mimic the kind of social events that used to happen before Covid struck. This can be as simple as setting up a WhatsApp group for your team or organizing monthly virtual parties or games nights – the key is to let it happen naturally and not make it compulsory.
Once your channels are in place, it’s a good idea to get feedback from your employees on which they enjoyed the most and areas for improvement. You can do this by asking them to complete a survey or flock review of your communication channels and social events, using their feedback to improve future offerings.
3. Implement reward systems
Recognize employees for their hard work and achievements by implementing a rewards system that shows how much you value and care for them. The shift to remote work hasn’t been easy for everyone, so show them you appreciate their efforts by rewarding and praising them.
Perhaps one of your employees nailed QA testing or demonstrated excellent customer service skills? Reward them! Your system for rewards and recognition doesn’t have to be complicated and could include:
- Monthly ‘shout-outs’ to employees who have met their targets
- Handwritten letters of praise
- A virtual ‘wall of fame’ that showcases employees who have exceeded expectations
- Redeemable coupons and gift vouchers
- Department-specific rewards (e.g., extra commission for a sales rep who’s hit a target across different sales channels)
4. Regular ‘check-ins’
Be sure to do regular ‘check-ins’ with employees that promote an active discussion of mental health and wellbeing, checking in on their personal lives and stress levels. These ‘check-ins’, however, are best approached subtly rather than forcefully, so don’t make it compulsory but DO encourage them to set up regular meetings with you.
These ‘check-ins’ will give you insight into their stress and burnout levels, helping you craft a strategy to break down any stressors and create a more calming environment. Take on everything they say and try to find solutions together to fix any problems.
Perhaps an employee is suffering because of the noise level at home? Consider providing them with some noise-canceling headphones out of your company’s budget to show them that you care. These ‘check-ins’ will also help make you aware of any conflict in remote teams so that you can address issues head-on, avoiding future issues when collaborating on tasks.
5. Encourage physical fitness
When holding any kind of catch-up session or ‘check-in’, make sure you stress the importance of physical health and fitness. Though mental wellbeing is the prime focus, your employee’s physical shape will directly impact their mental health, so you must ingrain it into your company culture.
Regular exercise releases endorphins, a destroyer of stress, so encourage team 5ks or set weekly fitness challenges with prizes as incentives to get moving.
6. Understand that flexibility is needed
Ensure employees strike a good balance between work life and home life by becoming more flexible with the way you structure work. Be considerate of the fact that some may have families or children to take care of. This, on top of long working hours, will impact their mental wellbeing.
The only way to maximize their productive streak is to strike a balance and become more flexible. Have a one-to-one with your team members to understand their home situation, adapting their work schedule to fit around their needs and daily activities.
7. Surveys of mental health practices
Once you’ve implemented mental health systems, you must keep up with regular and consistent feedback to improve on the practices you provide. Send out monthly surveys to your team, asking them what they think of the current mental wellbeing practices in place and what can be done better.
Armed with this knowledge, you can build relationships in your business by putting employee feedback to use and fine-tuning any systems to meet their needs and desires.
8. Provide them with the right WFM gear
Your employees will only perform well if they are equipped with the right tools, so make sure they have all the necessary platforms to do their jobs properly. This includes setting up virtual agent software, and conference calls software for your customer service reps and making sure they have a strong enough connection to make calls efficiently.
Alongside this, consider setting up your staff with some tech gear to elevate their work from home routine. Invest in noise-canceling headphones, standing-desks, and company swag to upgrade their routine and provide them with a sense of belonging in the company.
9. Know when outside help is needed
While it’s essential to provide as many in-house resources for mental wellbeing as possible, it’s just as important to have a directory for outside help should someone need it. Have a communication plan template in place that you can reference during check-ins, making sure you’re attentive to any severe signs of failing mental health and don’t be afraid to redirect an employee to outside, professional help.