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Remote Work and Mental Health: Supporting Your Team

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For some, remote work has been an eye-opening experience. Many are not willing to go back to the office in fear of losing the freedom and flexibility of working from home, or anywhere else in the world. But for some, it’s been a challenging experience. 

No matter how you look at it, remote work does affect mental health — both negatively and positively. This means that you’ll want to make a pointed effort to support your team’s mental health.

So, how can you support your team’s mental health?

There is no right or wrong answer here. What you decide to do will depend on your company, team, and resources available. However, here are a few great places you can start:

Take care of yourself and the team leaders

It goes without saying that it’s hard (or impossible) to take care of anyone else when you’re also struggling. It’s important that you take care of everyone on your team, starting with yourself. By doing so, you can set a positive example and truly lead your team.

Melissa Ng, the founder of Bravely, a research-based mental health app designed specifically for remote teams explained how to build a foundation of psychological safety in your team: 

  • If somebody says something, really listen. Don’t hijack the conversation.
  • Be brave enough to be vulnerable around your team.

Schedule regular check-ins with your team

Your team can still spend time together, even if you’re miles apart. Working remotely can get lonely, and providing your team with opportunities to connect and spend time together can help alleviate this.

A few ideas on how to facilitate this remotely:

  • Casual chat opportunities: Create a “place” to hangout and chat casually—this could be as simple as adding a watercooler or casual chat channel to your company Slack. Help people share more about their life and how they work.
  • Audio rooms: Using a chat room can sometimes be a little impersonal, but not everyone’s ready to jump on a video call at any moment—audio rooms can be a great way for everyone to be at the same place at the same time without the pressure of being on camera.
  • Company-wide digital events: Hold fun company-wide digital events like hackathons.
  • Match team members: Connecting doesn’t have to mean getting together as a big group, you can give employees an opportunity to connect with one another through cohorts or clubs where they can get to know others with similar interests. Book clubs, fitness clubs, foodie clubs, etc.
  • Focusmate: You can’t be in charge of creating every single opportunity for your team to interact. For people in your team that miss the feel of coworking with someone, set up an account on Focusmate that will allow them to schedule coworking sessions!
  • Coworking membership: Since lockdowns have eased in most countries in Europe and the US, consider offering your team a coworking membership. You can even keep a retainer at one coworking space your entire team can use and schedule coworking sessions or hold meetings in person when they want to. It’s a nice benefit to have at a relatively small monthly cost. 

Building meaningful relationships is one of the bigger challenges that remote companies have. But there are plenty of ways to connect if you’re willing to get a little creative.

Disconnect

It’s more challenging to connect in a digital working environment, but what about disconnecting? Yes, it feels like Slack messages never stop. You get a new email pretty much as soon as you hit inbox zero. But should you really be pulling an 8-hour day on the weekends when you already clocked 40 hours during the week? Unlikely.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to remote teams, but it is harder to disconnect when your office is also your home. Add the stress of the ongoing pandemic to that, and the ability to take a legitimate break from work becomes a larger issue.

This is an area where French law takes the proverbial cake. The French government increased worker protections in 2016, with a law that mandated off-work times for employees. This means that employers are not allowed to require employees to be available outside of their regular working hours.

If you want to build an efficient, happy and productive team, you might consider taking one from the French books. Your team has the right to disconnect, but you might need to get them pointed in the right direction.

Remote team benefits

Having a fantastic list of benefits won’t just make your team happy, but it will become a great asset when hiring. Working remotely is not a great perk anymore, it’s a requirement. So, what else are remote employees looking for? 

In the recent survey on benefit for remote workers, these were the most wanted ones: 

  • Health insurance coverage – Having a distributed team of remote workers doesn’t mean you can’t provide them with health insurance. Before discussing mental health benefits, make sure your team has a healthcare plan. There are easy solutions for this that allow you to add every team member under the same plan that works globally, no matter where they are in the world.
  • Dental coverage – This is a great ad-on to the health insurance plan. Some remote companies took it a step further and thought about the issues that affect remote workers the most, which are usually problems with eyesight and back pain, so they made sure they pay insurance and yearly check-ups for this.
  • Retirement plan
  • Sabbaticals – Next to paid time off, sabbaticals were extremely important to remote workers.
  • Paid maternity leave – For both parents.

Mental health-focused benefits

While providing health insurance benefits is a great start (and we’re sure your employees are thankful for it), you can step up your game by focusing on some of these as well:

  • Guaranteed vacation time: vacation days are only beneficial if you get a chance to use them—guaranteeing them is a great way to ensure your team actually takes a break
  • Mental health-focused subscriptions: giving your team an opportunity to sign up for a meditation or therapy subscription can provide additional support
  • Extended sick days: Unfortunately, you can’t control when you get sick and some days you just can’t do it—providing unlimited sick days and/or adding mental health days allow your employees to put a focus on their well being.
  • Gym membership: good for both body and mind!

Not sure what benefits work best for your employees? Have a chat with them about what they’re looking for, or opt to provide a wellness stipend instead—that way they can use it in the way that best supports them.

How do you support your team?

Historically, mental health has been overlooked by employers as a focus area when it comes to providing benefits. But with the increase in remote work and the decrease in physical face-time, it’s become increasingly important to check in with your team.

Providing pre-emptive support can not only help your employees day-to-day, but show them that you take their mental health seriously and are ready to provide assistance when needed. 

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