Let’s be honest - the last couple of years have been pretty bad as far as mental well-being is concerned. It’s completely unsurprising that the pandemic has altered many people’s routines and life structure, and there are a whole host of mental health issues that can crop up due to it. Humans are creatures of habit, and a change as big as this can wreak havoc on the collective psyche of workers.
In this time of uncertainty, communication with your remote workers is more important than it ever has been. It’s crucial to check on your staff and help those that may be struggling.
Setting up a virtual wellness program for your workers can make all the difference. Just knowing that you are there for them as a business can do more psychologically for your employees than anything else, especially during such a period of isolation.
This article will give you seven ideas that you can incorporate into your own virtual mental wellness program. Read on to find out more.
1. Encourage Openness in the Workplace
This is undoubtedly one of the most important facets of a good virtual wellness plan. After all, how are you going to know how your employees are doing if nobody will tell you about any work-related issues?
Far too many workplaces encourage a culture of silence: get your head down, get on with it, and don’t complain. You’ve probably heard those phrases or similar ones before, and it’s such a shame. Rather than increasing productivity, as purveyors of this attitude expect, it can send efficiency into an absolute nosedive, to the point where people might even quit and sacrifice their career goals.
So, what can you do instead? Try listening to your employees. It sounds incredibly obvious, but you’d be shocked at the number of bosses who seem to forget that their employees are actually people, with feelings.
In terms of mental wellness, there’s nothing more damaging than one’s problems being ignored by someone who’s supposed to be looking out for you. It not only reduces mental wellness as a whole but can also result in your employees being reluctant to address any future issues.
Encouraging an open culture, therefore, is definitely the way to go if your business values mental wellness, especially in this day and age. Here are some quick-fire ways you can go about changing your workplace culture:
- Set aside some allotted time to listen to your colleagues’ issues.
- Lead by example: be open about the struggles you yourself have faced working remotely, and others will follow suit.
- Don’t dismiss your employees when they bring mental wellness problems to you.
- Have set procedures to help employees who struggle with mental wellness.
2. Stress-Relief Techniques
Stress is one of the most common mental wellness complaints across the board, and it can lead to a host of other health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, and burnout. Not good. Reducing stress as much as possible is probably one of the most effective things you can do to improve your workforce’s mental wellbeing.
No job is without stress. We’re all well aware of this. But if work stress is amounting to the point where it can affect your mental health, something’s not right. Setting up a website or distributing a pamphlet can do a lot for your employees’ stress levels; even simple tips like how to manage email overload or ways to deal with deadlines will be much appreciated by your staff.
Why not also try giving out complimentary stress toys? A good old squeeze of a stress ball is sometimes a helpful way to deal with work stress, and you can slap your company logo on it too.
Things like this can be a little trickier with a partially or entirely remote workforce, so pay attention to what your employees need and act accordingly.
3. Subsidize Mental Wellness Activities
Funding mental wellness activities outside of the workplace are one of the most effective things you can do for a remote workforce.
Remote work has been incredibly isolating for a lot of people, so subsidizing an out-of-work activity can help to ease the loneliness. Here are some of the pastimes you could fund:
- Yoga classes
- Gym memberships
- Art classes
- Dance classes
- Cycling schemes
Of course, this is really only possible now that lockdown has eased somewhat. Should it return, it’s almost guaranteed that there’ll be virtual versions of all of the above activities, so you can still show your staff that you care.
It can also help your remote workers to build meaningful connections with each other as well as meeting new people, which again is a great way to combat mental health issues.
4. Set Up Your Own Activities
This follows as a natural next step to subsidizing others’ activities: why not set up your own? Again, real-life events are only possible when restrictions are lifted, but there are plenty of things you can do online with a little imagination and a free conferencing package:
- Pet Show-and-Tell
- Virtual art sessions
- Online group meditation
These are just a few things you could do, but make sure you tailor your activity to the tastes of your staff. You can also make them themed around your company if you wish, as it can help to boost morale and productivity.
Whatever activity you choose, it’s crucial to make mental wellbeing the center of it. Obviously, it’s also important to have fun but do so to reduce stress and improve emotional and mental health. Doing this consciously can improve the effects, and heighten the stress-relieving qualities of your activity.
5. Holiday and Annual Leave
Only 40% of the US workforce uses all their vacation days every year. Encouraging your staff to use up their holiday and annual leave throughout the year invites them to take a break when they need it. This is vital to keeping your mental health in balance, and can also help to reduce the signs of burnout. It also means that your employees will feel fresher and rejuvenated when they return to work, which can boost individual productivity of the office. It seems kind of counterintuitive to recommend taking time off as a way of increasing productivity, doesn’t it? But it really does work.
But what are you going to do if all of your remote workers are taking time off? Automating as much of your process as possible might be the way to go.
Think about it. Say you’re an ecommerce company that provides an online retail service, for example. An automated retailing procedure would help to lessen employee stress and enable them to take time off whenever they feel they need it.
Above all, be kind. So many people forget to take a break, and everyone needs a different amount of recharging time to feel able to do their job properly. Tolerance is key.
6. Social Spaces
The great thing about small business video conferencing taking off during the pandemic is that you can use it for a whole host of activities, not just work-related ones. We’ve already waxed lyrically about the advantages of subsidizing and organizing, but what about socializing?
Why not create your own social space for your staff to meet up in? We know, we know - the last thing anyone wants to do is spend more time in online meeting rooms. But if you set it up in the right way, it’ll feel less like a work call and more like a virtual get-together with friends.
It doesn’t even need to be a video call. You can always use a cloud phone system for business, or even a good old-fashioned group landline telephone call. Whatever you do, there’s one cardinal rule that must be followed at all times: do not mention work. Ever.
This is a great opportunity to really get to know your workforce, especially if you run a small business that’s had to go remote. It’s a space to be friends in, not to discuss projects.
Not only this, but you can incorporate some of the other tips we’ve mentioned into this space too - how about a good ice-breaker activity, or a discussion about the importance and challenges of mental health? Some drinks and snacks go a long way as well.
7. Anonymous Surveys
This is a bit of a niche idea, but it can work very well for companies that have a lot of employees. It’s hard to get to know everyone to the point that they would feel comfortable opening up about their mental wellness challenges to you, so in situations where this is not possible, anonymous surveys come to the rescue.
You can ask a whole load of anonymous questions as well as those relating to mental health, such as workplace diversity or general work-related happiness issues, in order for your employees to avoid feeling targeted or uncomfortable. Anonymity is a lifesaver here, especially for such a sensitive topic.
Here are some examples:
- Do you feel supported at work?
- Do you feel you have someone in management that you can talk to about work-related stress?
- Would you be interested in participating in a mental wellness improvement course?
- What would you like to see changed about the way our company handles the issue of mental health?
Well, there you have it. Here we have seven ideas you can use to make a great mental wellness program for your remote-working team.
Above all, you’ve simply got to cut your staff some slack. This last year and a half has been pretty nasty for everyone, so your management approach has got to be more about humanity than the numbers. Remember that, and everything will be just fine.
Bio: Jenna Bunnell - Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Dialpad
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system and video conferencing platform that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways.