As more and more organizations move to a fully remote working environment, or adapt to a hybrid schedule, the workforce faces a new set of stressful challenges that may be contributing to an unhealthy work-life balance. To counteract that, leaders and managers can play a crucial role in helping employees manage their stress levels through consistent communication and specific workplace initiatives. It's also vitally important that leaders and managers have a pulse of their team and colleagues in order to proactively help support their mental health in times where employees are feeling tired, overwhelmed, and stressed throughout their work day.
In this article we highlight 5 effective ways for managing your hybrid and remote employees to help support their mental health and reduce work-related stress. By implementing some or all of the initiatives we outline, your organization will be taking an active step towards creating and maintaining a healthy and happy workplace culture.
1. Offer Support and Key Resources
Communication and support is key when it comes to mental health. By fostering a positive and open communication culture, employees will feel comfortable sharing their opinions and feelings without the fear of judgement or being isolated. Managers can get to know their team members through scheduled one-on-one conversations that should not always be work related. By building a relationship based on trust, you will learn about each employee, and how you can best support them in the workplace. When it comes to available mental health resources (e.g., employee assistance programs and telemedicine mental health support) it's important to educate your organization throughout the year. By having multiple thoughtful touch points, your organization will be able to ensure any new programs will be communicated as well as reenforce that these programs exist and are for their individual needs. This is especially helpful for new hires and should be a key part of employee onboarding.
2. Allow for Camera Optional Video Meetings
Having multiple video meetings a day can be exhausting for some employees. Mental and emotional energy is spent being on video and in many cases can create anxiety before, during or after the meeting. Consider allowing employees to turn off their cameras occasionally, or have a camera optional philosophy at your organization. Outlining whether a meeting is camera optional in the invite or meeting details can go along way in creating healthy meeting expectations. This type of flexibility for video meetings will help those employees that are simply uncomfortable speaking on camera contribute more often, and can lead to an increase in overall employee engagement. While on-camera meetings can benefit teamwork and camaraderie amongst teams, overuse can have a negative impact internally.
3. Watch for Signs of Burnout
If you notice an employee is behaving differently, showing a lack of interest or simply seeming a bit disconnected, it could be a sign of burnout. For example, someone who is typically talkative and bubbly is now quiet and disengaged, or someone that is typically very deadline oriented is starting to miss deadlines, or fall behind on key projects. These may be signs that this employee is burning out. If you start to notice this in a colleague or team member, reach out to them, and suggest a helping hand. Perhaps help them reallocate or prioritize tasks to make their workload more digestible, or suggest speaking to their leader about it. The way to aid burnout is through communication, focus and connection. Being able to support your team members and employees through periods of burning out will add tremendous value to the other health of your organization.
4. Encourage Taking Time Off When Needed
Many employees feel uncomfortable taking time off when working remotely. Taking a day off to stay at home when they work from home could create a sentiment of guilt. If you are at home not working, but your office is in the next room, it may be hard to fully disconnect. This mindset can lead to increased burnout and a lack of relaxation or rejuvenation from days off. Organizations are starting to increase their focus and support on mental health by adding in mental health days or expanding upon sick days. As a leader or manager, you can convey to employees that calling in sick or taking a mental health day as needed is OK and in fact important. It's also a good practice to let your team and employees know that it's expected that they disconnect fully while on time off whether they are at home or not. A time off culture that promotes being offline while on PTO, sick days, or personal days will have a positive impact on the mental health of all employees.
5. Set Work-from-Home Boundaries
Working remotely often crosses boundaries between times to work and times to be present in your home. Remote employees can feel pressured to respond to emails at all hours, even after their traditional work period ends. Implementing a culture of taking short breaks throughout the day to go for a walk or read a chapter of a book will help create healthy boundaries for your employees and their work. If you notice an employee is constantly online, and continuously answering work emails after work hours, encourage them to review their work day schedule and their priorities. It's important to have a productive workday schedule and cadence while making space and time for other essential aspects of their lives, especially when it comes to mental health.
Mental health plays a vital role in the performance and overall happiness of your employees, while positively impacting your company culture. By implementing the above initiatives to support your employees and their mental health, your organization can ensure they are continuing to drive a healthy and happy workplace culture.