We spend most of our waking lives at work, so it’s no surprise that our jobs can have a great impact on our mental wellbeing.
The COVID-19 outbreak has raised concerns regarding its effect on employees’ mental health, especially of those who continue to work remotely. According to a survey carried out by mental health provider Ginger (2020), “nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career, which has aligned with stark increases in new prescriptions of antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia medications.
The survey also states that “employers need to make mental health support a critical aspect of that plan, or risk a dramatic impact on employee health and productivity”.
Whether individuals are working in the office, are front line workers or are working from home, employees are urgently in need of accessible mental health benefits, now more than ever.
As we all go through this unsettling and stressful time, how do employers know that they are supporting their employees who are working remotely? How can we notice if a colleague is not being themselves if we are not seeing them in the office every day?
It is much harder to monitor team members who are working from home as the visual indications are clearly not as noticeable when you’re not working in the same office. The most effective way you can support colleagues working remotely, is by offering them peer-to-peer network support. This can be done through managers resources and support from their colleagues.
Supporting the mental health of remote workers
Tip 1: Leaders and managers have a duty of care towards employees and need to educate themselves in order to foster a culture that supports mental wellbeing. They can help stop the stigma around mental health by undergoing training designed to educate them on the concepts involved and how to communicate them to their team and the organisation.
Consider following in the footsteps of Deloitte UK, who launched the “This is Me” campaign, through which six senior members of staff spoke out about their struggles with mental health. They stated that “when managers are more vocal on these topics, acceptance of mental wellness becomes ingrained in company culture and other employees can step forward ”
Tip 2: Keeping tabs on the mental wellbeing of remote employees is not an easy task for employers. Another way organisations can ensure they are supporting remote workers is by sending out anonymous employee surveys, targeting questions to assess levels of stress and anxiety within the organisation. The results from these surveys can predict if burnout is approaching and can also prevent bouts of depression.
Zevo Health has developed technology that allows employers to keep the pulse of the needs of the organisation and its people by enabling employees to calculate their own wellbeing score. This technology allows organisations to track the mental wellbeing of remote employees, and intervene where necessary with resources to support mental health whilst employees are working remotely.
Tip 3: By providing peer to peer network support within your organisation, you are creating an environment in which the individual feels comfortable to discuss any issues they may be having, whether it be inside or outside of the workplace.
According to a study carried out by Slam Recovery College “Employment as a peer support worker brings benefits for the peer support workers themselves in every reported evaluation. The experience of valued work in a supported context, permission to disclose mental health problems, which are positively valued, all add to self-esteem, confidence and personal recovery”.
“Experience of peer support working also increases chances of further employment, personal development and achievement of life goals” ( Slamrecoverycollege.co.uk, 2010)
Tip 4: It is important to understand that different individuals may be more or less engaged with different types of peer to peer networks. Communication preferences will also differ depending on the individual.
For example, a face to face conversation over coffee may be one employee’s preferred method of communication whereas another individual may prefer to communicate via a messaging tool such as Slack. It is therefore important to ensure that different communication platforms are in place to account for these differences so that conversations around mental health can happen effectively.
Tip 5: Research has shown that there are gender differences in communication within the workplace. For example, research has shown that men can communicate in an overly blunt and direct manner. This may result in employees feeling reluctant to confide in male peers. On the other hand, females are known to be more empathetic in their communication styles.
Championing workplace mental health and wellbeing
These differences mean that it’s very important to educate employees on how to empathetically communicate with their peers around the topic of mental health.
According to WHO, “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives”. Effective training is required in workplaces to support and provide mental health services.
One of the most beneficial courses on mental health that any organisation can provide to their employees is the Mental Health Workplace Champion Training which is provided by Zevo Health.
This training session is specifically designed to build awareness of workplace mental health and to equip attendees with knowledge on this topic. Zevo Health provides the tools to support an individual during a mental health crisis or during the development of a mental health illness.
Mental Health Workplace Champion training will equip you with knowledge of a range of mental health illnesses, enabling the recognition of common signs and symptoms and an understanding of the general treatment for each*.
Research commissioned by LinkedIn has given insight into the current working conditions of employees working remotely in Ireland due to COVID-19. The research found that “56% of respondents reported feeling more anxious or stressed than they did before the lockdown was introduced while respondents also reported working an extra 38 hours per month on average – essentially an additional working week” (Mhc.ie, 2020)
As many employees will continue to work remotely, it is now more important than ever to prioritise the mental wellbeing of your workplace. Research is indicating that employees are feeling more stressed due to their current working conditions, so implementing mental health support into your organisation is crucial for the sustainable wellbeing of your people.
About the author
Zevo Health is a workplace wellness company that consists of a team of healthcare professionals, from a psychology, exercise and nutritional background. Zevo Health partners with organisations to create innovative programmes that make a lasting impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of employees in that organisation.
Zevo Health provide some of the best around and some of our most popular workshops are those on that explores how to support those in crisis and provide individuals with the tools to recognise ‘mental health’ in the workplace.
*This is not medical advice, please contact a medical professional if you think you need to seek further help.