While many employees find considerable benefits in remote work, it’s still important to care for your staff’s mental health, just like you would in a physical office.
One real risk: Burnout. Some employees just don’t bother to shut down at the end of the day. The Society for Human Resource Management, a professional organization for human resource managers and leaders, reports that remote workers may work more than they did when in an office, sometimes even adding weekend hours.
For companies to maintain the competitive advantages of remote work—a diverse workforce, increased productivity, and lower real estate expenses in the long run--it’s vital to support mental health initiatives.
Virbela Human Resources Generalist Drahnier Schmidt shares a few ways to help take care of people at your company.
Schmidt’s first and foremost recommendation is to ensure your company culture aligns with authentically supportive structures.
“By maintaining a culture where everyone can contribute their ideas on work projects, you’re likely to realize transparency around mental health,” explains Schmidt.
That’s because collaborative work primes your staff to already feel comfortable talking to managers or leaders about their thoughts. Schmidt recommends three pillars of open communication:
Keep documents, folders, message threads, and other project materials open to everyone in the company. As long as it’s not confidential, you can keep everyone feeling like work is a transparent place just by granting document permissions. This can help un-silo teams at a large company, too.
Maintain an open-door policy. This may be easier in a virtual world, where there are actually spaces that feel like rooms. Private volume features mean conversations remain confidential. Over video, you could confirm verbally that the conversation is private.
Check-ins and one-to-ones give staff a dedicated time to discuss the going-ons of their world. Usually, they’re work-focused, but it’s a totally appropriate time to gauge mood, tone, and engagement. Create safe spaces for check-ins to be a chance to divulge anything beyond the surface.
Offer Wellness Perks
At Virbela, Schmidt likes sharing wellness apps and other perks with staff. For instance, access to the Calm App or ClassPass memberships give staff a way to unwind on their own, as opposed to work functions that can feel like one more event to schedule. It’s also the type of intangible benefit that helps your company stand out as an amazing place to work.
For those who don’t know, the Calm App is an app for meditation. It includes sleep stories, music, and other ways to energize the mind or unlock deeper relaxation. ClassPass offers access to different fitness classes, like yoga, strength training, martial arts, cycling, and more.
Fitness challenges can also be fun, while encouraging employees to take time to take care of their physical health. Physical exercise has been long established as important to lower levels of stress and increase mental and physical wellbeing.
Schmidt recommends being mindful of different abilities, “When instituting a fitness challenge, allow employees to set their own goals and encourage them along the way. Having a small incentive can help increase participation, but at Virbela, we let staff choose what—or if—physical activity feels good to them.’
Schmidt has a final piece of advice that could apply to anyone, not just human resource leaders or team managers.
“Pay attention to the people around you. Mental health challenges may not be apparent at first. If someone appears to be overly anxious or stressed, depressed, or angry, it could be a warning sign of a serious mental health problem.
“You can be compassionate and effective without crossing any boundaries yourself. Just being an engaged, kind person can be enough to help flag an issue.”
That being said, if someone is ever acting in a way that feels threatening or indicates violence, companies need to have an escalation plan in place. These behaviors should be referred to human resources, who can connect your colleague with meaningful mental health resources.
But, overall, employees are more likely to benefit from balanced mental health when they feel that their employer is supportive. By giving your workers the tools they need, you can help maintain a healthy, balanced staff that gives your company its best work every day.
For more on how to promote mental wellness in remote work, follow Virbela on LinkedIn.