Emerging Issues

7 Ways to Prioritize Mental Health in the Remote Workplace

May 14, 2021

Mental health is just as important as physical health. It’s a statement that is especially pertinent this past year. It’s also something that workplaces need to be promoting to their employees. One in four people have a diagnosable mental illness; remote working and the accompanying isolation or added stress can make triggers or depression worse.

Mental health can be a sensitive topic for some, it’s crucial that managers and leaders are educated on the topic and have resources at hand to assist any employees struggling with their mental health.

woman looking stressed out at laptop in home office

These seven ways to help support mental health in a remote workplace. Many of these points will continue to be relevant as people begin heading back into the physical workplace, so it’s a good idea to keep them on hand.

Understand that everyone is going through different struggles

It’s crucial to acknowledge that every person is going through their own experience with covid and lockdowns, each with their own stressors. Some people may be working from home while also homeschooling or helping children with online learning. Others may be struggling with new or increasing depression and anxiety. Additionally, the deep isolation from other people can exacerbate mental health issues such as depression. Some may be helping care for sick or elderly loved ones. Others may be worried about finances or potential job change/loss. Any challenge will likely be significantly amplified while working remotely.

Share Resources or Benefits

Ensure that employees know about any benefits or support offered through the workplace. This can be anything from benefits for mental health therapy, to free yoga classes. Many companies and organizations also offer employee assistance programs (EAPs). Many EAPs are underused because employees don’t know what they offer or how to access them. If possible, create an easy-to-access communications document or webpage, where employees can find helpful information and links. Along with company resources, you can include things like local mental health walk-in centres or crisis lines, links to free online fitness classes or meditations, and local yoga classes. Anything that can assist or inspire employees struggling with mental health will be beneficial.

Make Time to Check-In

If possible, set aside the first 5-10 minutes of regular meetings to check in with everyone. Showing empathy and keeping open lines of communication will let workers know you care. Leave space open for people to share if they feel comfortable, and make sure everyone knows it is a safe space. If there are no regular meetings, take a few moments each week to send out an email checking in, genuinely showing you care, and responding to any replies. It may seem like a hassle to spend this extra time, but it is time well spent.

Adjust Productivity Expectations

The ups and downs of lockdowns and remote working can be hard on anyone. It is completely reasonable to be less productive during these times, especially if employees have external obligations or stressors. Many employees will likely not be at the top of their work game, so think about working together to create strategies that will help enable them to get their work done with minimal amounts of stress. Flexible deadlines and working hours, farming out work, or changing the way tasks are handled can all help.

Get Leaders on Board

Hearing a boss or manager talk about mental health and say that it’s okay to ask for help can be life-changing for many employees. It can also relieve any stigma or shame that may prevent them from both reaching out to the workplace or seeking treatment. Make sure leaders at every level are on board and prioritize mental health. Something as simple as taking mental health days can make a huge difference. When a manager or boss also takes a mental health day, this really shows how seriously they take the importance of recharging.

Encourage Physical Activity During the Workday

We all know the many benefits of physical exercise when it comes to our emotional states. Encourage employees to block off time during the day to move their bodies. A walk or run around the neighbourhood, a yoga session, or a hard-core workout all count. Don’t forget to direct employees to the free fitness resources you will ideally compile.

Socialize Virtually   

Not everyone loves the idea of a post-work happy hour or team lunch, but many people greatly rely on these for much-needed social interaction and work breaks. Just because you’re working remotely, doesn’t mean you need to give these up. Try to include a minimum of one event each month, with no pressure to join in. Some ideas are: a virtual happy hour, game time with prizes, team lunch (send food or delivery gift cards ahead of time if possible), or fun activity like a crafting session or paint party.

Don’t forget to thank your employees! A simple thank-you note or praise during a meeting can go further than you think.

We’d love to hear the ways your workplace prioritizes mental health. Leave a comment below to let us know!