How employers can better support their remote employees manage mental health and stress

Mental health has become a major workplace topic in recent years, but with a surge in anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, managing and supporting mental health at work has never been more crucial. A new study by Instant Offices has revealed the top tips that employers should be putting into place to help support their employees throughout the year with stress and mental health issues.

This article builds strongly on our article on how business leaders can look after themselves and their staff.

A 2020 survey revealed that 828,000 workers in the UK struggle with work-related stress, anxiety, or depression. From 2019 to 2020, 17.9 million working days were lost due to these work-related mental health issues.

Statistics in 2020 showed that the biggest struggles for employees working from home was loneliness (20%) and difficulty communicating (20%). While these are both still among the top concerns for WFH employees, they have dropped slightly to 16% each and have been overtaken by the inability to unplug, a concern that has skyrocketed from 18% to 27% between 2020 and 2021.

The top 5 struggles for remote workers are currently:

  • Not being able to unplug: 27%
  • Difficulties with communication: 16%
  • Loneliness: 16%
  • Distractions at home: 15%
  • Staying motivated: 12%

How Businesses Can Support Employee Mental Health Right Now

Break the Culture of Silence

There is still a stigma around mental illness that makes employees more likely to suffer in silence than share information with their managers or bosses.

Now is an ideal time for leaders within businesses to talk more openly about mental health and create a culture that encourages conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support should never impact an employee’s reputation or how they are perceived.

Keep Socialising With Your Teams

Remote working has its perks, but a lot of people are feeling isolated right now. British workers are missing the days of office banter and face-to-face meetings.

Lead By Example

With many employees working remotely, managers need to be more conscious of the challenges different households face. Encouraging flexibility, self-care and regular check-ins is key to reducing presenteeism and stress, and ensuring employees facing any issues can be identified and supported. Encourage transparent conversations and put action plans in place for team members who need help.

Introduce (or Keep Up) Team Activity and Training Sessions

With employees using tools like Zoom to connect with the office remotely, now is a great time for businesses to encourage morning catch-ups, remote Friday drinks, yoga sessions or even company training sessions. Encourage team members to take a class they’ve always wanted to try or to attend industry-related Webinars. This is a great way to support employees looking to upskill themselves and stay busy.

Four Things Employees Can Do to Manage Stress

Get a Better Night’s Sleep: ‘Coronasomnia’ (corona insomnia) is causing a rise in sleepless nights across the UK. The number of Brits struggling with sleep problems has risen from one in six to one in four.

Some of the best ways to create a better sleep pattern include reducing caffeine intake, turning off screens, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, and ensuring our bedrooms are as dark as possible.

Take a Digital Detox: With little control over the situation and our social feeds jam-packed with COVID-19 related news and uncertainty, now is a good time to limit the amount of media we consume. The goal is to ensure you are informed enough to make decisions but not so overloaded with news headlines that it induces anxiety.

A good idea is to choose a few authoritative resources and check in with them daily while muting channels that disrupt your sense of wellbeing or using a tool to manage screen time.

Be Strict Around Work-Life Balance: Lee says it’s important to schedule the day into bitesize chunks and work in waves. “Honour your ultradian rhythms, which run between 60 to 90 minutes, and then take 15 to disconnect and take a break. By working in waves, we become energised and find it easy to switch off from work when the end of the days comes.

If we can’t disconnect from work, we face the real possibility of burnout and making mistakes. I have my clients have a digital sunset, where they tidy their workspace ready for the following day and put everything work-related in that space. They visualise shutting down from work, and then walk around the block again, this time leaving work, and returning home. It’s crucial also to schedule enjoyable things in the evening. Do a Zoom call with family and friends, or partake in hobbies and interests that are not work-related.

Create a Calm Workspace: It’s not always easy to find an ideal space to work from at home. When deciding which space to work from, look for an area with natural light and temperate, fresh air, and minimal distractions. The space must be free of clutter and have comfortable furniture.

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