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Mental Health in the Workplace: Supporting Virtual Employees

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Over the last ten years, the United States has seen a growth of 91% in remote work. However, the figures skyrocketed when the Covid-19 Pandemic hit. Work from home became the new normal, and employers had to adapt to the changes quickly.

When it came to supporting mental health in a traditional office space, employers could take measures to help affected employees. But in a virtual workplace, it has become a daunting task, especially when the COVID-19 induced lockdown led to social isolation. So, as a leader, how can you help your employees feel connected with their peers and ensure their mental well-being?

In the guide, we will discuss a few best practices to support your virtual team. Let’s begin.

Employee engagement

Engaging with your employees can have incredible benefits for productivity, eliminating communication gaps while ensuring mental well-being. First, it is necessary to understand what problems they are facing.

So, here are three steps you can take to assess the problems and bolster employee engagement:

  • Roles & responsibility: Communicate with employees regarding the role and projects they are working on. There may be some difficulties in managing projects remotely or with team collaboration. The idea is to understand their responsibilities and help them streamline them to avoid burnout.
  • Performance review: Talk to employees about their performance. Try not to focus on the numbers and try to understand where they are lacking. Ask them what you can do as a manager to help improve their productivity.
  • Quick check-ins: Conduct frequent check-ins with your employees. You can ask questions such as “How have you been getting along with remote work?” “Does it get too quiet at home?” “Do you miss having your teammates around?” Assess the factors affecting your employees and frame your questions accordingly.

Loneliness vs. Isolation

According to a Buffer study, the problem with loneliness continues to affect employees in remote work. It is important to note that loneliness is an emotional response, whereas isolation is a more deep-rooted complication within the organization’s structure.

Loneliness is relevant to the personality of the worker. For instance, if employees are shy, they may feel disconnected from their colleagues. But, you cannot turn them into extroverts. Hence, your strategy needs to be in line with what the employee needs. Create opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction via virtual meetings and social gatherings that do not make them feel uncomfortable.

Isolation, however, is a structural problem that requires you to make changes in the operations process. Let’s say your employees feel there is a lack of recognition, or the work they do makes no impact on the company. Such situations can isolate your employees, so steer your efforts in applauding their work and take measures to achieve employee satisfaction.

Work/life balance

Remote work has helped provide employees with a flexible work schedule and the elimination of commuting hours. But, it has led to the workplace blending with the home. It has created an environment for employees to be productive throughout the day as they have access to their office 24/7.

This can lead to burnout and irregular sleeping patterns, with an adverse impact on workers’ mental health. Moreover, efforts to maintain productivity may result in withdrawal from friends and family, further isolating workers.

As a leader, here is how you can help your employees:

  • Encourage them to set up a designated office/work area in their living space.
  • Set up working hours by asking them the times that work for them.
  • Allow for regular breaks and time-off for lunch.
  • Refrain from assigning tasks during non-working hours.

Mental health surveys

Mental health in the workplace is still stigmatized and not taken seriously. Also, employees do not always feel like sharing personal details or problems they are going through. However, pre-COVID, this was being done in more progressive working environments.  Remote employees may not wish to disclose any information at all as they feel disconnected from the employer. Hence, you need to pay attention to understand your employees’ mental health without being intrusive. That is where surveys enter the picture.

You can roll out company-wide surveys with questions around “stress levels,” “How comfortable are you sharing mental health problems with your employer?” “What is your general take on the organization?” “What support or mental health resources do you need?”

You can make these surveys anonymous as well. There are various tools available that will help you do that.

Highlights

Here are a few key highlights from this article:

  • Use role/responsibility, performance reviews, and check-ins to improve employee engagement.
  • As a leader, understand if the main issue is loneliness or isolation.
  • Help your employees achieve work/life balance.
  • Use un-intrusive mental health surveys to assess the problem.
 

 

About the Author: On a quest to help professionals across the world land their dream jobs, Aditya lives and breathes Hiration — a platform to help job-seekers find their way in the treacherous job market — where he’s a Co-Founder, CTO, and the unofficial CPO (Chief Problem-solving Officer). He likes to code away his days and nights when he’s not busy disrupting the career space.

Website: https://www.hiration.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/adisharma2988

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aditya-sharma/

Photo by manny PANTOJA on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.

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