Managing a workforce is a sizable task at the best of times, so when they’re forced to work remotely because of a global pandemic, it can be no small mission.
With World Health Day on April 7th, we wanted to look at ways to support employees from a mental health perspective.
This is a huge topic in the industry: half of the US workforce has suffered mental health issues since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why does it matter?
Poor mental health, or feelings of stress and depression, can contribute to a loss or decline in productivity in the workplace- and that ultimately affects a company’s bottom line.
There’s also a human element to consider, though. Mental health problems can affect employees and their co-workers in a number of ways:
Taking unnecessary or uncustomary risks that put themselves or others in danger
Feelings of loneliness
Stress and anxiety caused by work overload or having to pick up the slack of others
Low mood or unhappiness
Being uncooperative - both with superiors and co-workers
How can you support your employees’ mental health?
With remote working now a staple part of many people’s working lives, it’s arguably more important than ever to support mental health. Here’s how you might support your teams.
Check-in regularly (but not too much)
Remote working can be lonely for some people, and it can also be harder for leaders to identify issues or problems. Check in with your teams regularly to ensure you’re up to date with what’s going on. But don’t overdo it - employees should feel trusted to do their jobs without supervisors and bosses breathing down their necks all the time.
Make it face to face
When speaking over the phone, it can be hard to notice physical indicators of an employee’s wellbeing, such as facial expressions or body language. Where possible, try to include video calls as part of your catch ups to encourage that human interaction.
Consider their circumstances
Though a good salary is key for employee happiness, working from home can be difficult for some. They may not have an adequate workspace or may feel isolated. Could your company offer some kind of stipend for the workforce to buy equipment to do their jobs more effectively, such as desks or chairs? Perhaps you could treat the staff to takeout or a voucher to spend on themselves to keep up morale and spirit.
Sure, core hours usually need to be covered, but can you offer some flexibility for your staff? Though remote work suits some, it can be a huge inconvenience to others who may have children and partners at home, making it hard to concentrate. If you can, let them work at hours to suit them and allow them to be at their most productive, even if these are outside of normal working times.
Every company should have guidance and support material for its staff. Mental health in particular is a big focus for those working from home and for whom social interaction is minimal. Ensure you regularly share resources and support information, and provide a clear line of communication for your team.
Many workers may feel it difficult to disconnect when a home is work and work is home. Encourage them to go for a walk or take regular breaks, and to ensure they power down at the end of the working day to avoid burnout. Lead by example, too; communicate with them and show that you are living by your own advice. Work/life balance is important, especially at times of heightened stress.
The pandemic has affected different people in different ways, but our working lives have altered dramatically. As a leader, you need to be able to adapt to these changes to continue providing the right level of support for your employees.