Mental health issues are universal. Remote workers experience anxiety, just like employees who work in the office. In some cases, the stressors are different. According to Harvard Business Review, remote workers experience higher levels of loneliness, which in turn contributes to higher levels of psychological distress.
While working from home or from a remote office offers some distinct mental health benefits, it also comes with drawbacks as well. How do you support the mental health of employees in a remote workforce? Knowing how to deal with the mental health of remote workers entails examining some of the issues that may face this group beforehand.
Balancing the Stressors of Isolation and Constant Connectivity
Because employees are online, digital connectivity makes it easier for them to contact friends, family and colleagues without leaving their home or office. Remote working can also help employees achieve a balance in their life while reducing the stress of commuting.
However, constant connectivity also makes it difficult to ignore responsibilities that demand immediate attention. In addition, remote work can make social isolation more likely unless proactive steps are taken to counteract the risk.
Some employees might take an extended business trip one week or live abroad for months at a time. With so many irregular variables in play, remote working can have serious implications for mental health. In fact, the isolation and lack of routine that comes with remote work can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and even, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.
Therefore, the following list can help you, as an employer, promote or suggest a regular routine to your remote employees.
1. Morning Rituals and Exercise
Most forms of exercise have positive mental benefits since they force you to focus on the present moment, rather than letting your mind wander to a to-do list or worry about the future. For anyone who is a morning person, exercise offers a great opportunity to work out before they begin their work day. For non-morning people, afternoon workouts are also a great way to get some endorphins flowing to relieve workaday stress. Exercise can also help with sleep. For anyone having trouble falling or staying asleep, or if they wake up feeling groggy, working out can help them reset their body clock, thereby making it easier to get a good night’s rest.
2. Encourage Breaks
Just like in onsite settings, you should encourage break times for remote workers. Promote breaks in the morning and afternoon to keep on schedule and to reduce the stress in their day.
3. Supportive communication
While remote communication has many benefits, it also poses certain challenges. The lack of day-to-day physical interaction with colleagues can lead to feelings of isolation, especially if an employee is in a setting where they don’t interact with many people.
In-person communication is particularly beneficial for remote teams. Whether it is a scheduled video call or a spontaneous water cooler conversation over chat, getting in touch with team members can help reduce the isolation that can come with working from home.
4. Establishing Boundaries With Teammates
In an office environment, we have an understanding that we are part of a team. Therefore, we work at supporting each other. That extends to helping each other out when deadlines are looming or there are pressing work issues that need a resolution.
Remote teams, by contrast, must navigate these issues in an entirely different way. While there will be times an employee can step into help, they shouldn’t feel like they’re always expected to solve everyone’s problems. Encourage your workforce to set boundaries with teammates so that it does not become overworked. For example, a worker should let their peers know when or when they are not available.
5. Setting expectations with clients
Depending on the type of work you do, your clients may never actually meet your employees in person. But that does not mean they don’t expect a certain level of professionalism – the same professionalism commensurate with working with an in-office team.
Let your clients know ahead of time about your remote workforce – and provide them with the contact information they need to reach people in your company. Whether that’s an email address, phone number, or another way to get in touch, let clients know the best form of contact.
Remote working is great for many people, but if the organization implements policies like the ones in this article, the employees will be set up for success. You need to take care of employees both mentally and physically, and make sure that you have a support system in place to reduce feelings of isolation.
Most importantly, you need to promote the idea of a daily routine among employees – one that includes exercise, breaks, and reasonable work hours.
Great Northern Helps Injured Workers Recover
Great Northern Therapy Associates is your partner who can provide counseling services to injured workers. We have therapists throughout many states who can meet in person and via remote telehealth sessions to work with injured workers and develop an individualized plan to help them adjust and successfully return to work.
We have partnered with and provided mental health support to workers at some of the largest companies in the world. But, at our core, we are still “people taking care of people,” one person at a time. Contact us today by filling out a form (below), submitting a referral, or calling us at the number below.