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June 30, 2020 • read
7 ways to help reduce your staff’s anxiety while working from home
“So, how are we doing this week?” you ask your team at your weekly virtual department meeting.
“Staying strong, carrying on!”
Work is a touchstone of normalcy for so many of us. It’s how we see our friends, structure our days, and feel productive and included.
But, things are different when you’re working through a pandemic. Suddenly, your staff have been isolated. They’ve converted the living room to their office, with their kids running around and unplugging the printer. They’re handling the great unknown — how will the pandemic turn out? Will things ever go back to normal?
It’s important as an employer to be mindful of these conditions and the impact they’re making on your employees’ mental health. You can do a lot to create a positive, supportive working environment. In return, your employees will feel more emotionally secure and invested.
Follow these tips to align priorities on employee mental health, and make accommodations so everyone can do their best work.
1. Be empathetic
The first step in supporting your employees is by simply being aware of current factors they’re facing. Remote workers face burnout at higher levels than in-office workers tend to. That’s in normal times, let alone with news headlines and social media painting a grim picture of the world.
Remote workers also tend to grapple with loneliness, even if they’re attending lots of virtual meetings. Loneliness is bad for our health. Social isolation and loneliness have been proven to lead to premature death, at even higher rates than vices like drinking or smoking. Loneliness can also exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
While you don’t have the power to stop the COVID-19 virus, you do have the power to be empathetic with your staff. Keep this in mind as you assign deadlines, give feedback, and communicate with your employees. A little understanding can go a long way.
2. Think out-of-the-box for socials
Just because everyone is physical distancing, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together! But, you’ll want to avoid the standard “video cocktail party” format. People are tired of either talking over each other, or enduring long, awkward silences. Luckily, there’s a better way to plan social events.
Games are here to save the day. There are lots of online versions of popular board games, card games, and quiz games that will keep a crowd laughing for hours.
You can also watch live shows, lead a cooking class, host a talent competition, or any number of ideas you might otherwise plan for a work social. Check out your local community for virtual events. After all, the show must go on for every industry. Many local arts collectives are staying connected to their communities over streaming services.
3. Check in with employees
If you don’t ask your employees how they’re doing, they might not tell you until it’s too late and burnout has already set in. Schedule regular meetings with your staff to ask them how they’re coping with things. The chance to talk openly and honestly can be very cathartic.
Here’s a handy checklist for employee check-ins. While you’re asking about their workloads, also ask how they’re mentally handling current circumstances. Some people feel pressure to put on a brave face, and never end up sharing real fears and anxieties they’ve been harbouring. Check-ins should be a safe space for employees to vent, and seek help if needed.
4. Provide mental health resources
Employee check-ins are essential, but they can’t replace the help of a mental health professional. Our mental health is something we maintain on a daily basis by practicing relaxation, reaching out to friends and family, and keeping up healthy habits. You can help your employees take care of their minds by providing educational resources, and access to mental healthcare providers.
Here’s a consolidated landing page of Canada-wide mental health resources. As well as mental first aid tools, you can share blogs, tips, and inspiration to help with daily mental health maintenance.
It’s also a great idea for your employees to speak to a therapist in the midst of these stressful times. Therapists help patients process difficult emotions, develop coping skills, and feel better within themselves. Now that everyone is anxious at home, there’s a lot to unpack with a therapist. This isn’t something you can mandate, but sharing details on online therapy is a great way to encourage employees to seek help from the comfort of home if they need it.
5. Encourage work-life balance
With remote working arrangements, it can feel like the workday never really ends. We’re always attached to our devices, so maybe just one more email, one more phone call, one more task.
One way that employees can lessen their anxiety is by having clear structure in their days. If your staff is on a 9-5 schedule, ensure that meetings don’t occur before or after those hours. Let employees know that they’re allowed to take breaks for lunch, to go for a walk, or to attend to situations with their families. Don’t expect employees to be available 24/7.
When the home is also the office, it can be hard to find mental separation. Communicate expectations clearly — employees are free to enjoy their off-time, and should not feel compelled to be responsive and productive round the clock.
6. Promote healthy habits
Our physical health goes hand in hand with our mental health. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help you sleep better, reduce rates of chronic illness, and manage symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Try organizing a department or company-wide exercise event, such as a jog for charity, a cardio challenge, or a group yoga class. Exercise releases serotonin, which is the “feel good” chemical in our brains.
Good nutrition does wonders for stress too. A healthy diet helps bolster your immune system, which keeps disease at bay and makes you feel energized. It also boosts your gut health, and ensures you’re topped up on vitamins and nutrients. You can help your employees make wholesome food choices by leading a healthy online cooking class, or delivering whole foods treats to their homes rather than cakes or donuts.
7. Reward good work
What keeps us going in the short term is the feeling of teamwork, and of being valued by our peers. Make sure you give recognition to your employees for good work to keep up their team spirit and motivation, even if you’re miles apart.
It’s hard to maintain a positive mental attitude all the time, let alone during a period of global unrest. Having open, honest, and vulnerable conversations can help everyone feel like they’re on the same transparent page. And, it will go a long way in helping employees feel more supported, connected, and empowered by their employer.
Mental health is something we all share, but not enough people get professional help for their problems. Online therapy is a growing solution. Patients can see a licensed therapist whenever they want, from the comfort of their own homes. Get in touch to learn more about adding online therapy to your employees’ benefits programs.