The dramatic shift to remote work caused by the coronavirus has had its fair share of pros and cons. For instance, the social media giant Twitter quickly found that remote-only work was so effective that they turned the work from home (WFH) situation into a permanent policy.
However, for every example like that, there are others about both employers and employees who are struggling.
The Mental WFH Struggle
As time has crept on it’s become abundantly clear that WFH policies aren’t for everyone. In fact, in many cases, they’re even fuelling a mental health crisis that revolves around a wicked combination of isolation and burnout.
The thing is, these struggles aren’t new. In 2018, 54% of those asked already reported feeling lonely. In 2019, still, before the pandemic had even started, nearly one out of two remote workers reported wellness as their biggest struggle.
The potential harm associated with mental health concerns must be proactively addressed by Human Resources in order to preserve and protect employees.
Remotely Focusing on Employee Mental Health
Of course, the question that naturally arises is how to tend to a workforce’s mental condition when everyone is working remotely. Fortunately, there are several ways that a HR professional can do so.
Conduct Regular Check-Ins
One of the most important ways to avoid isolation, in particular, is by regularly checking in with your remote employees.
This should be done carefully. For instance, it shouldn’t be seen as a “babysitting” or micromanaging activity. You’re not interested in catching them doing something wrong. You want to ensure that they’re both surviving and thriving in their WFH scenarios.
In addition, try not to use the same modes of communication for check-ins as you do with normal work activities. As an example, using Zoom to check in with an employee when they’re already using Zoom throughout the day for essential activities can only serve to exacerbate Zoom fatigue. Consider sending an email or a message in Slack instead.
Inquire Into an Employee’s Work Environment
Having a good remote-work environment is essential to healthy productivity. As their HR rep or line manager, you can highlight ways that you can fill a home office with good vibes, such as ensuring that you have proper lighting and adding plants and natural elements.
Teambuild and Cultivate Culture
One of the least intrusive, most effective ways that HR can keep their team’s spirits up is by leading remote-team-building activities. There are many different ways to do this, such as creating a team pet org chart, sharing where in the world everyone is working from, or taking virtual “water cooler breaks.”
If you are a UK based organisation, you could consider away days for employees, providing a day or two holiday, covering the cost of transport, activities and any overnight stays. Team building exercises provide an opportunity to socialise, knit your team together, and maintain a positive, healthy company culture — all of which can help preserve good mental health.
Add to Your Team Wisely
Finally, as time progresses and you hire new employees, make sure to add mental health into your recruiting considerations. As you look for the right behaviours in a candidate, consider if they show a positive, growth-oriented mindset that will thrive in a remote work setting.
Maintaining Employee Mental Health Remotely
As an HR professional / line manager, it’s important that you consider the condition of your staff. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in person or scattered to the four winds, checking in regularly, conducting team-building exercises, and recruiting wisely can all help to bolster your team’s remote work activity.
In addition, encouraging employees to maintain healthy WFH environments can help to curb the negative effects of extended periods of remote work.
Whatever the specific method or manifestation, it’s essential that you guide and direct your company’s mental health initiatives in order to protect your workforce and help them weather the current storm with success.