Prioritizing mental health for yourself and your team is more important than ever, given the stress and isolation of remote work. But life is busy and self-care is hard, which means it’s not always easy to figure out what prioritizing mental health means. We checked in with our friends at Justworks for some tips on mental health resources for remote teams, because of their expertise in helping small businesses equip their teams with the resources to be successful, in and out of the workplace.
2020 has been quite a year. There’s so much going on in the nation and in the world, we’re all feeling the strain in one way or another (though stress and anxiety seem to be the most common ways).
For many professionals, working remotely has become a long-term reality, which brings its own set of challenges. Setting healthy boundaries between work and life, balancing work and kids, video call fatigue — the list goes on. These days, it’s crucial to prioritize your mental health.
Nearly one in five American adults will experience mental illness in a given year. Even so, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that only a quarter of people with mental health symptoms feel that others are caring or sympathetic about their illness. Clearly, the stigma around mental health issues remains — and the pressures and isolation of remote life don’t make things any easier.
How can we develop better habits around mental health in today’s remote work environment? One way to start is by fostering connection among teams.
Fostering Connections with Coworkers
Working from home can get lonely, and even more so during the pandemic when many of us are also limiting our social interactions. There are a number of studies that show the negative impacts of loneliness on people’s health. Add to that the fact that social isolation and loneliness can sometimes lead to issues like stress-related sick leave and cardiovascular health complications, and it doesn’t paint a good picture.
Facilitating more connections between employees may help to increase happiness, engagement, and productivity. Encourage your fellow employees to help each other feel included in your remote community. Technology provides many strategies you can use to help remote employees feel less alone:
- Donut is a perfect tool for bringing remote teams together. Use it to launch virtual meetups over coffee or lunch, encourage peers to meet for learning opportunities, and build networks of colleagues for new hires.
- Utilize Slack, WhatsApp, or other messaging apps to create group channels where your workers can communicate with each other. These can serve more than project-related needs — create a channel or group chat for sharing productivity ideas or great articles.
- Encourage your employees to communicate socially, as well as for work purposes. Without daily in-person interactions, it could be helpful to have a space for discussing the latest news or what’s for dinner.
- If you’re a manager or supervisor, make sure to check in regularly with your remote staff and try to address any issues they may have. Here’s a helpful article with some best practices around discussing mental health with coworkers.
Mental Health for Remote Teams
Building connections can be extremely helpful for some, but others may find themselves in need of additional strategies to cope. Use those connections to help spread information and resources, and try to make space for your colleagues — especially if you’re a people manager. Advocate for your team to take the time they need to care for their mental health.
Here are some additional strategies remote workers and teams may find helpful:
Therapy and Teletherapy
Therapy is a key mental health treatment that works for many people. You might even have these services covered through your health insurance plan, so check your plan documents for details. You can also look into whether your company offers an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. Many of these programs will offer mental health services like therapy and counseling to members.
Teletherapy services make therapy even more accessible. For example, Talkspace provides secure and anonymous online therapy, where users can access confidential help from professionals, any time of day — perfect for remote workers.
Meditation and Breathing
Meditation is a powerful tool against anxiety, and a simple practice that anyone can use to help improve mental health during the workday. From books to apps to YouTube videos, there are tons of ways to get started with meditation, many of which are free.
If meditation isn’t your thing, try simply finding a quiet place to do some breathing exercises. Breathing exercises help you to slow your heart rate, which can have an immediate effect on anxiety. Psychology Today offers some simple breathing techniques you can use anywhere — even at your desk.
Other Ideas to Try
Exercise is another simple and accessible strategy. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise boosts the production of endorphins, which has the mental health benefit of helping you to feel less stressed. Nature is also linked to positive emotions and decreased stress and anxiety. Whenever possible, aim to take a break outside and get a dose of fresh air and greenery.
This is a short list, but there are lots of other strategies you can try to improve your stress levels and mental health. Do some research on your own and see what types of mental health-boosting activities speak to you.
You’re not Alone
If there’s some comfort to be found in these unprecedented times, it’s that you’re not alone. We’re all going through this together, and your colleagues might be experiencing similar struggles as you. To the extent that you feel comfortable sharing, be open with them — you can deepen connections, help others to feel less alone, and share resources and strategies.
The more we can work to lessen the stigma around mental health, the more people will feel comfortable and safe bringing their whole selves to work — wherever they are.
About the Author
Sasha Butkovich is the Content and Editorial Manager at Justworks, the fastest growing HR technology company in the country. We provide small- and medium-sized businesses access to big-company benefits, automated payroll, HR tools, and compliance support — all in one place.