March 8th, 10:31 am
Mental health is an important topic for any organization to address, but for remote companies, it seems to be a greater concern.
Many remote employees are working from home, which is a significant and complex transition. We’ve found that some remote companies are doing a really good job of easing that transition by providing mental health resources, such as virtual wellness classes, in-office respite days, access to counselors, etc. But with the sheer number of articles and advice pieces about remote work, it can be hard to figure out what to do and where to start. Here are 10 ideas for how to support the mental health of your remote employees.
One option many organizations are taking is to provide access to an employee assistance program, or EAP. An EAP is a team of professionals who can provide confidential professional help to their employees. Some EAPs may provide services in-person and/or online, but some may also provide advice on how to cope with difficult situations, and connect employees to mental health resources, such as support groups or online counseling.
Creating mental health resources is another key aspect of supporting remote employees’ mental health. If your company doesn’t have them already, start to build them in the office or develop new offerings. Creating a dedicated mental health team or support group may be the right strategy. You might also consider providing virtual wellness classes to employees in need of temporary escape or individual time. In one study, 79% of US employees say that mental health issues impact their job performance. Consider adding access to counselors, providing flexible working hours for employees who need a mental health day, and allowing employees to work from home a couple of times per month.
In companies with long-standing cultures of support and company retreats focused on wellness, managers can quickly make some changes. If they ask for input on what makes the organization’s culture thrive, employees might identify strategies that support good mental health. For example, many companies in Silicon Valley have deep cultures of support for employees’ self-care and connectedness, which is reflected in the company culture. Additionally, technology allows companies to provide employees with time off, access to therapists, and other amenities. These should be used as opportunities to engage with these resources for employees. As one example, Google offers unlimited paid time off and 15 hours of flexible work time each month.
An important aspect of remote work is not giving your employees too much work to do. Too much work means not taking the appropriate time-off vacation and not leaving the office. With most working families on vacation over July 4th, summer is the time that many employees want to take time off and have fun. But since so many employees use their vacation days around the holidays, many companies just ignore that “time off” request altogether. Instead of taking a month of paid time off, set aside a day for employees to take a mini-vacation. Even if that day is “family day” at the office, still let employees know that they’ll be paid for their time off. Employees will appreciate the extra vacation time and let you know that they’ll use it for whatever purpose they want to take it.
Respite days are ideal for taking care of all the little things that add up. Getting to the dentist, getting your car inspected, taking care of the copier issues that keep cropping up…these can all be stressful. A healthy respite day can make all the difference in how you manage your remote employees’ stress. Even better, many companies are becoming more aware of the importance of employee mental health and creating policies to give employees mental health breaks. Offer Mental Health Programs initiatives are not always top of mind when creating remote work policies, but they are definitely undervalued. Providing or improving mental health resources, such as yoga, meditation, and therapy options, is a great way to support your remote employees and their wellbeing.
Meeting for lunch, connecting through the social media platform of your choice, or exchanging e-mails over group messages or video calls can all add up to losing sight of important daily nutritional needs. These feelings of separation can cause reduced blood flow to the brain, increasing stress levels and leading to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and substance abuse. To support your remote employees’ mental health, encourage healthy eating and encourage healthy eating options at the office (without judgment). Encourage employees to eat at the same time, ensure food is available when they are hungry, and even introduce an online gym instructor to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Your remote employees should not feel like they need to stay in their seat and work on their computers for the entire day. Encourage them to take regular breaks to go outside and take in some sunlight and fresh air. Encourage them to schedule a specific block of time during their workday to work on a particular project or exercise. Allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid PTO a year to attend to personal needs is also an amazing benefit for many employees. Employees will take time to take care of their health and loved ones; your job as a manager is to create a work environment where this is possible. Set a firm date for when your employee can take their PTO, and work with your team to stick to it.France is leading the way in this area, passing the right to disconnect law in 2017.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but only 43% of full-time employees with a family can access health insurance through their job. Fortunately, there are more and more companies now that offer health insurance for remote employees. As with any health insurance, be sure to talk with your employee, look at the details, and make sure there is adequate coverage to meet the needs of the employee, including employee costs, and deductible amounts. In addition, if your employer offers health insurance, you should talk with your employees about whether they want a physical in-office health assessment – many remote companies are offering the assessment for free.
Virtual wellness classes can help employees adjust to their new, remote work lifestyle by supporting them through stress, anxiety, and other emotions. Many companies have individual wellness classes that employees can go to at any time to talk to a counselor, get access to resources, and can help employees learn about the warning signs of mental illness, the steps to take if they feel they are experiencing a mental health crisis, coping skills, and other advice.
There are another interesting trend in the space, the group wellness classes, where your close-knit or tea, joins to make a session together and have the experience to share. These usually are more related to guided classes like yoga, breathwork and shamanic practices instead of psychology type of consultancy,
A handful of companies including My Online Therapy, Talkspace, and Spill offer online, part-time, or full-time counseling services that employees can use to get help. A few benefits of these counseling services include: Remote employees don’t have to wait weeks or months for face-to-face meetings. Instead, they can access professional therapists for their mental health needs when they need them. The counseling comes to them, on their terms. It can be a useful means of informal peer-to-peer support, as well as something that can be beneficial to streamlining your own office workflow. It’s a good way to support employee wellness. When your employees experience a mental health issue, they’re less likely to feel they have to stay at work and make up for their own absence.
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