The coronavirus took the world by storm, presenting new challenges and problems for the individual, teams and organisations. One challenge that took precedence was the social distancing measures that many people took to ensure that they weren’t physically affected by this virus that camouflages itself as the flu, but presents many severe impacts for millions worldwide. During this time, many companies introduced remote working as its number one defence from COVID-19. But during the installation of online applications and procedures to assist with team collaboration, many organisations forgot to implement measures to preserve the mental health of team members and, to a larger extent, the organisational culture.
1 in 6- that’s the average number of persons who experience anxiety, isolation, depression or another common mental health problem every week worldwide and with the coronavirus affecting finances, physical interactions and causing deaths, these mental challenges are undoubtedly amplified. Although COVID-19 affects us all, the reality is that the goals of individuals and organisations are not halted. It is therefore imperative that organisations, their leaders and every team member play their part in creating a culture that values mental well-being.
But what is mental health and why is it important?
Mental Health concerns psychological, emotional and social well-being that influences your feelings, how you make decisions and handle everyday situations. This makes having good mental health important because it affects your interactions with team members, work productivity, ability to take care of your physical health and can influence whether you are making meaningful or harmful decisions. Although there is no number one cause for mental health issues, our environment is crucial to sustaining our wellbeing. As adults, we spend most of our time in our work environment and on that account, it is important that organisations curate a culture that values the mental health of its members.
How can an organisation and its leaders support the mental health of remote workers?
- Company Leaders should reiterate mental health as a priority
Leaders are considered the influencers of the organisation and set the tone of how members perceive its culture. It is important for leaders to remove the stigma and shame associated with mental health so that employees know that the organisation cares. Leaders can do this by sharing resources with employees and facilitating open communication for employees to come forward with their challenges. Leaders can even share their own challenges with mental health so that employees who relate to these experiences can seek the necessary help, knowing their leaders understand and support them.
- Encourage time for physical activity
When working from home, employees are sometimes tempted to roll out of bed and stay chained to their desks for the entire day. But even a short 5 minute walk can put us in a better mood. Organisations should carve out time for employees to get some physical activity in their schedule. Try skipping the video chat and encourage standing meetings, offer yoga subscription, reimbursements for fitness machines or even pose
ing a stepping challenge for a bit of healthy competition.
- Facilitate Virtual Water Coolers and Social Activities (but no pressure)
Do you remember when you were at work and people would stand at the water cooler having a chat or sharing some laughs? In a virtual office space, this should be no different! Create a space on your Teams App where employees can share funny videos, have a small party, share a link to a Teleparty (previously Netflix Party) or even play a game of Among Us. Having these optional social events will allow employees to know that the organisation cares about them as individuals and provides a space to clear their head before hopping back on their tasks.
- Recognise employees for good work
Your feedback and rewards culture does not need to change because of remote work. When working from home, employees may feel isolated and feel uncertain about their quality or quantity of work. Rewarding them for their good work and providing feedback can provide a boost of confidence and motivation for employees to perform. These rewards can be monetary or non-monetary but should also take into account what the individual employee values most.
- Encourage a work/life balance
Do you want to hear something ironic? When some employees were first introduced to remote work, they were beaming with excitement. There would be more time for a work/life balance because less time is being spent commuting to the office. But then reality sank in and the workaholic nature of employees came into full swing because their workplace is also their home and there is some guilt that sets in when they have to log on. This can result in burnout because employees work late and get up early to start again. Organisations should encourage employees to achieve a work/life balance by setting aside hours for work time and home time, to not be afraid to say no to tasks that they won’t be able to accomplish during those times and to take their break to give them enough time to take a 5-minute walk and to eat.
- Be open to flexible working
The regular 9-5 work time might not be ideal for employees while working remotely. Employees may have to juggle taking care of children, parents, or tackling their anxiety during different times of the day. Leaders can help by assisting employees to set up goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and, time-bound (SMART). This will move work from being a daily objective to being deadline sensitive that will allow employees to work on their tasks during times when they are most productive.
By now, we know that our organisational culture and our leaders facilitating that culture is important for encouraging healthy mental health, but what can you as an individual do to help relieve your stress and provide yourself with the motivation to achieve your individual and organisation’s goals?
Here are some tips from some of our very own Lumours Team Members:
A walk, 30 minutes to read a book and a minute of deep breathing using a great free meditation app called OMM – Carol J. Hugh, Lumorus Expert Leader
Listening to a song to make me relax or motivate me to do my best work – Marco Jacquemin, Lumorus Chief of Staff
Yoga, essential oils and a nice cup of tea does the job – Evelina Bondareva, Lumorus Head of Research & Thought Leadership
When I feel stressed I tend to listen to music, draw or even paint- Oniel Croal, Head of Creative & Social
I go to the gym, do meditation daily and take a break to cook a meal because cooking relaxes me- Romeo Effs, Lumorus CEO & Founder
Some, all or none of these tips may work for you. Try to find what works best for you but remember to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms that can lead to substance abuse or unhealthy decisions.
Lumorus is a UK-based governance, leadership & organisational health consultancy. We provide bespoke services using a mixture of diagnostic tools and development that assist organisations and their leaders to perform and create long term value. To find out more about our organisation, visit our website at https://www.lumorus.com.