3 Tips for Supporting Your Remote Team's Mental Health
Because remote employees are physically out of reach, it can be difficult to determine whether they're experiencing mental health problems. And if you don't know about the problems, you can't assist. Below are three tips for handling this sensitive issue.
1. Know the mental health risks of remote work.
Studies show that remote employees have higher rates of stress compared with office-based workers and are susceptible to loneliness, worry and irritability due to working remotely.
As demonstrated in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the social stage is critical to our psychological development because, when fulfilled, it reduces negative emotions — such as loneliness, depression and anxiety.
Isolating by nature, remote work isn't naturally conducive to social needs. It can also be hard for employees to adjust to remote work if they're not accustomed to working alone. Along with reduced social interaction, remote workers sometimes worry about job performance and stability, which can result in diminishing self-worth and lack of confidence.
2. Learn the many causes of poor mental health.
Because a lot of emphasis is (deservedly) placed on remote workers' social needs, it can be easy to overlook other mental health threats facing this demographic. According to a report by Kaiser Permanente: "Employees are stressed — but not for the reasons employers think."
Employers tend to think the top three sources of employees' stress are:
- Lack of work-life balance.
- Inadequate staffing.
- Digital connectivity during nonworking hours, or technology burnout.
In reality, for employees, the top three reasons are:
- Inadequate staffing.
- Low pay.
- Issues with company culture.
Of course, there's always the possibility of the problem being closer to home — such as marital discord, financial instability or substance abuse.
3. Make your remote team's mental health a top priority.
This requires a holistic approach that typically includes the following steps:
- Integrate health and safety into your company culture. Let your remote workers know your commitment to supporting their physical and mental health.
- Alleviate stress among your remote team by ensuring they're not underpaid or overloaded with work and encouraging them to take time off from work.
- Have a safe and confidential process for remote workers to report mental health issues that are interfering with their job satisfaction or performance. If you haven't already, consider offering an employee assistance program or including mental health services in your health insurance plan.
- Train your leaders on how to spot negative mental health behaviors such as unreliability and absenteeism in their remote teams. Teach leaders how to respond with empathy, so afflicted employees will be more inclined to confide in them.
- Stay connected with your remote team as much as possible and promote team collaboration — via services such as Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Join.me, Skype, GoToMeeting, Trello or Zoho.
- Give your remote team easy access to mental health resources such as all the necessary website links and people to contact.
Remember that no matter what business you're in, your greatest resources are human resources.