How You Can Support Mental Health Remotely


With much of the state on lockdown, companies large and small have adapted to long-term remote work. In most cases remote work has been successful — employee engagement has even trended up — but it can lead to feelings of loneliness, too.

In the absence of chance encounters and watercooler chat, remote work can feel isolating. We’re used to spending more time with our colleagues than with our own families. This is especially true for small startup offices where relationships tend to be tight-knit. The sudden loss of social interaction can impact overall wellbeing — especially mental health.

“That can lead to disengagement and lack of motivation,” says Shelly Beall, owner, president and workplace wellness coach at SB Wellness Group, Inc. Happily, there are steps you can take to support employee mental health in a remote work environment. Here’s how.

Make Mental Health a Company Priority

Employees are experiencing a lot of stress due to COVID-19, the BLM movement and their personal circumstances, such as a lack of reliable childcare or uncertainty about the coming school year. Your empathy towards what they’re experiencing is critical. “Leaders in the company need to create a culture of compassion and support employees in their wellbeing,” Beall says.

Leaders should communicate clearly and without judgment.  Be willing to be flexible. Help employees feel comfortable approaching you or other leaders for additional accommodations or support. Make it a point to emphasize the importance of mental health and institute regular group check-ins.

Providing clear expectations for roles and responsibilities is vital for reducing mental strain in remote work, too. “Performance management has to be even more specific and clear,” Beall says. “Than can reduce some of the mental anxiety that comes along with working remotely.”

Support Your Employees’ Healthy Habits

In addition to losing the social interactions they’ve been used to, your employees are also suffering from the loss of their daily routines. This can impact mental health, too. “Changes in routines can be devastating,” Beall points out. “Helping employees come up with new habits and routines can help a lot.” Without cues from team members, for example, it’s easy to lose track of time and work through regular meal breaks.

Offering health and wellness benefits can support employees as they create routines. These programs also serve as a gateway to mental health services, if necessary. “There’s not as much stigma around wellness coaching,” Beall points out. “But a good wellness coach will be able to address mental wellbeing.” Wellness coaches can also provide referrals to mental health professionals. Online wellness programs tend to be affordable and can provide valuable health education, ideas for healthy eating or virtual exercise classes to keep your team engaged in managing their own wellbeing.

Model Positive Behaviors

Company leaders need to do more than communicate the importance of mental health: They should model those behaviors themselves. Even if they aren’t voicing it, employees often fear that taking advantage of mental health and wellness programs could be held against them, Beall points out.

Virtual group mindfulness meditations, for example, provide an opportunity for leaders to participate in front of the team. Daily check-ins with direct managers and leaders can provide social and mental support, too. This gives them an opportunity to check in with team members one-on-one, and encourage the use of EAPs and wellness programs.

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