Although many businesses had begun to embrace the idea of remote working, the workplace overhaul inflicted by COVID-19 has plunged us all into working from home permanently for the foreseeable. With teams required to adapt quickly to new patterns of working, this has left many workers vulnerable to the effects of self-isolation on their mental health and wellbeing.
For managers navigating a team through this shift, protecting your mental health, and that of your employees is paramount during this uncertain time. We take you through the practical steps that can be taken to safeguard the wellbeing of your team when working remotely.
Think about the tools your team needs to do their job remotely
Frustrations can grow within the team from not having the necessary tools to perform their jobs to the optimum. Think about what you offer in the office - such as back supports, dual screens, ergonomic keyboards, additional screens and noise cancelling headsets - and touch base with your team to see whether their home set-up significantly hinders them in any way. Offering what you can to your employees will make them comfortable, boost productivity and raise morale.
Take a look at our guide to gear up your business for smart working
Know when and how to communicate
From establishing a communication structure, checking in with individuals, showing appreciation and gaining valuable feedback, be intuitive about the ways you can reach out to your team remotely to make them feel connected, secure and a valued member of your team.
Take a look at our top tips to communicate with your remote team.
Recreate the team ‘social scene’
Uphold the sense of community your team had in the office and think about some of those ‘rituals’ that you can mirror remotely. There’s no reason why you can’t continue having ‘virtual coffee breaks’ or ‘sandwich and Skype’ team lunches to keep your team camaraderie intact and make sure it’s not all about work chat.
Encourage a positive work-life balance
Remote working causes the line between working and home to become more blurred, so make sure you instil the importance of unplugging and maintaining a healthy balance among your team. Practices such as setting diary reminders to encourage your employees to wrap up the working day, setting aside full lunch breaks to displace from work and silencing email notifications in the evening can encourage employees to take valuable personal time and withdraw stress from their system.
There’s no reason why you can’t continue having ‘virtual coffee breaks’ or ‘sandwich and Skype’ team lunches to keep your team camaraderie intact and make sure it’s not all about work chat.
And practise what you preach! It’s important you look after your own wellbeing so you can also be there to support your team. Sharing your own self-care strategies can help your employees follow your example.
Be alert to red flags
Fewer emails, a lack of response or complete withdrawal could be telling signs that a team member is struggling. Be mindful and alert to the symptoms of mental ill health and ensure all your team are aware that you have a compassionate and supportive relationship to mental ill health and that you are there to support and guide as may be necessary.
Establish a structure
Providing clarity and direction can help teams to focus and feel supported when adjusting to a new way of working. Discuss with your teams how you'd like to run supervision, check-ins, and work signoffs remotely.
Structure should provide staff a clearer sense of direction, but it shouldn’t be constricting so don’t pack the working week with check-ins. Trust your team to work autonomously and make them feel empowered to use initiative and perform to the fullest.
Encourage team to utilise support tools
As a manager, be aligned with the organisation’s wellbeing strategy and ensure you are aware of all the support your business provides to people who may be struggling with their mental health. From video counselling sessions, virtual exercise classes, to mental health apps such as Headspace and Calm, knowing the spectrum of resources at hand will mean your equipped to provide the best advice when it’s time to talk.
Be understanding of childcare/family
Be mindful that some of your team will be juggling remote working with childcare or caring for family members at home. This can trigger feelings of guilt and cause employees to lack focus when having to prioritise one over the other. Maybe you’ll be able to relate – so share a structured working from home plan that can keeps them and their families happy and content.
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