This vocabulary has been seeping into our lives over the past two years.
The new and multifold challenges brought about as a consequence of the pivot to remote work and lifestyles - of balancing work and childcare, working longer hours, or feeling socially isolated to name a few - have been brutal.
People are unable to focus and are unproductive, they’re lonely or are utterly exhausted. Employed workers are 3 times as likely to report mental health problems now than before.
Fast forward to today and most lockdowns have been lifted, businesses are reopening and people are returning to offices; a new era of a hybrid mode of life is being ushered in. People are bouncing back, but as the world confronts new waves of COVID-19 variants, ongoing political disruption and uncertainty, the struggle will continue to be real.
That’s why HR teams cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to creating a supportive employee mental health environment for hybrid workforces or remote teams. It’s easy to slip into an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach but you risk a brain drain if you do, especially considering most companies are beefing up their approach to wellness.
So how can you keep your remote team from becoming too fried, frayed, and frazzled?
Let’s dive in.
1. Organize a mental health awareness online training session
Whilst this may seem quite basic, it is probably the most important activity you can carry out.
Being able to talk about mental health is a must.
Employees who experience unanticipated mental health consequences may be unable to describe their challenges and can be uncomfortable discussing them with colleagues. They may not know when to ask for help. And as with a remote team, when video-on calls are rare and most communication happens over Slack, it’s entirely possible for a team member to appear well, but struggle with these issues internally. Team members may not be aware that a person needs help.
Hosting a virtual training session that’s led by a mental health professional will:
- Reduce stigma
- Help employees better understand a) risk factors and triggers of mental health issues b) how to recognize signs and symptoms
- Provide insight into different assistance and accommodation measures
- Leave team members better equipped to know how to offer support to each other
Protip: If you’re using a virtual event platform to host the session, gamify the event to make the event a lively conversation-filled one. Set points for questions asked, Polls answered, and any other activity you can think of, and then reward those on top of the leaderboard. This is a simple but effective way to gently encourage and embolden your team members to speak up and clear their doubts.
2. Host well-being Mondays
Or any other day that ends with a y during the work week, actually.
On each wellness day, plan activities or workshops that give employees a chance to take a break from work, and which helps boost their morale and workplace attitude.
There’s no end to the different kinds of virtual activities you can plan; a blend of stress-relieving activities, energy boosters, and positive self-motivation would give employees something new to look forward to each week. And if there’s an overwhelmingly positive response to any activity in particular, you can offer it weekly. Here are some quick examples:
- Morning yoga flow to settle into better posture
- Mid-day meditation to refocus and get back to a calm mental space
- An evening Zumba break to lift team spirits
The more your employees feel looked after, the happier and more engaged they will be.
3. Launch team fitness challenges
We all know we should probably exercise more even though we don’t want to hear it. But just to illustrate, 50% of remote and hybrid workers have reported an increase in lower back pain, 48% in shoulder pain, and 52% in eye strain as a result of a more sedentary lifestyle.
So a fun and smart way to get your team to stop being a bed/desk potato and to get up and move around more is to launch a team fitness challenge. Simply set some fitness goals that the team can work towards together within a specific timeframe, and introduce a lighthearted sense of competition through gamification.
Using a virtual event platform, you can set and award points for different goals from step challenges to squat challenges and reward those with the most points on the leaderboard! Remember that the goal is not to turn your team into fitness freaks. It’s all about building mindfulness about living a healthy lifestyle and building camaraderie along the way.
Protip: Physical fitness challenges might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so plan for different kinds of micro-challenges that remote employees can work towards. This can be anything from getting 7 hours of sleep each night to doing kind things for team members or even drinking enough water.
4. Use virtual booths as gratitude hubs
Just so we’re on the same page - a virtual booth that you set up on a virtual event platform looks exactly like it would at an in-person event.
You can customize the booth as per your needs and requirements, with company branding and signage. And you can equip the virtual booth as per your use case. For example:
So for instance, you could create a central on-demand hub for employee mental health awareness information, you could upload any relevant documents to the booth, such as company policies to the latest health advice. You can upload a video of your mental health awareness online training session. And you can upload videos of team members taking part in the activities you’re holding as well as a leaderboard tracking the progress of employees engaged in team or company-wide challenges.
What’s great about this is that all the employees in your organization will have easy access to important information and constant motivation to prioritize their mental health any time they need it.
We’re all a little needier than we’d ever state. In fact, a Deloitte study found that a whopping 85% of workers want to hear a simple thank you in their day-to-day interactions. At the most basic level, being appreciated makes us feel valued; it’s validating and energizing.
Using a virtual booth to share gratitude and appreciation is perfect for teams of all sizes, but could also work great in a conference setting or company offsite. Then all you need to do is ask employees or teammates to write down notes of appreciation to each other, and upload them to the virtual booth. There’s something very uplifting and binding about being able to look at a collection of thank you notes written between your team.
To sum up…
As you can see, there are a variety of activities you can incorporate into a virtual mental wellbeing program for your remote team. Whichever you choose, empathy is key.
When employees have the ability to openly talk about their challenges and struggles in a safe work environment and management puts in the time and effort to make sure that everyone feels taken care of and valued, it builds trust and keeps them healthy and engaged. And this will result in a healthier and happier organization.