How to Support Mental Health in a Distant World
Mental health issues are on the rise, and not just in the world of remote work. According Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians will develop a mental illness in their lifetime. In response to this, many companies have taken it upon themselves to create policies and programs that support mental health.
These efforts are fantastic and necessary, but how can we go further? How to make telework an ecosystem more conducive to mental health?
Reducing stressors such as isolation, long hours, lack of support and lack of meaning can be done at several levels: company culture and values; management philosophy; hiring practices; office design; policies and programs; education or training – even through games like Minecraft!
This blog reviews each of these topics with a focus on remote work as a unique ecosystem.
Company culture and values
Company culture and values are the foundation of all remote work programs, showing employees that the company doesn’t just care about getting the job done.
Remote work can create a lot of isolation, so putting pressure on yourself to “be productive” can add to stress, while a company culture that values collaboration, breaks, and self-care can alleviate stress.
One way to create a remote work environment that promotes mental health is to require virtual communication rather than face-to-face communication. Many businesses require face-to-face communication and collaboration, which can be stressful and create a sense of isolation on the virtual side.
“It’s not enough to have the technical ability to be virtual, you really have to think about the culture you want to create and how you want to represent your company values virtually,” says Ryan Azimi, Chief Development Officer of ETIAS.
Another way to support mental health is to communicate company values and expectations with written policies.
This can help in two ways: first, it creates insight into behaviors, which can help with conflict; second, policies and guidelines can help create a psychological contract with employees about what they can expect from them and what they can expect from the company.
Another way to support mental health in a remote work ecosystem is how management is done. Is management done through open dialogue and collaboration? Or is it done through a more top-down hierarchical model?
Remote work creates a new challenge of managing people and work that is not face-to-face. A good way to mitigate this difficulty is to promote a bottom-up management philosophy.
Managers who have a more open dialogue with their teams may be more supportive and understanding of work-life balance issues, such as people who need to leave work early for a doctor’s appointment or to pick up their children to school.
And managers who have a more open dialogue with their team may also be more open to their team’s ideas and suggestions on, for example, lightening workloads or creating new processes.
Hiring practices can have a significant impact on a company’s mental health. The hiring process can be hard work for the company and the candidate for different reasons.
A good hiring process ensures that a company hires the right person for the right job and helps a company understand what it takes to work at the company and what the company values are.
When hiring for remote work, a key question is how the person works and what type of communication they use. For example, do they use email or do they use something like Slack?
Email isn’t always the best communication tool, but it’s almost a necessity in many businesses. What other tools do they use? Tools like Slack, Zoom, and Zoom Rooms can make remote work easier by facilitating visual communication.
“Understanding how a candidate works and what tools they use to communicate is important because it can be critical for a remote worker,” says Ray Leon, CEO of Pet Insurance Review.
The office is often where people go to flee their homes. But for remote workers, home is the office. This can be good or bad, depending on the design of the home office.
An effective home office is one that is comfortable, well-lit, and distraction-free. The best home offices are designed to minimize distractions and maximize comfort.
“The number one thing people forget when working from home is that they need a comfortable place to work,” says Alexandra Fennell, co-founder of Attention: Grace.
Working from home can be great, but it’s important to make sure your home office is set up in a way that supports your mental health.
Set up your desk comfortably and make sure you have enough light.
Policies and programs
Policies and programs are another way to reduce stress in a remote work ecosystem. Policies and programs can help support work-life balance, mental health, health and well-being. For example, many remote work companies offer flexible hours so people can work the hours that work best for them.
Remote work policies often revolve around the idea of “working when you want, where you want, and how you want”. But the “how” of how you want to work can make a big difference when it comes to mental health.
So, a good way to support mental health and work/life balance is to set specific times for “office hours” and other times when people can work at their convenience.
Employee training and education is another way to support mental health. A company may offer in-house training on topics such as mental health, communication, team building, and productivity.
Or it could offer training in tools that support mental health, such as visualization or mindfulness tools. There are many online courses on specific topics such as goal setting, time management, and productivity.
There are also more general courses like those offered by Coursera that can provide a good overview of mental health topics and concepts.
“Mental health is something that should be talked about more openly, and I think training and education can help with that,” says Matt Miller, Founder and CEO of embroiderer.
The remote work ecosystem is an ecosystem that can support mental health. However, every part of the ecosystem must be nurtured and nurtured to ensure sanity is sustained.
Company culture and values, management philosophy, hiring practices, office design, policies and programs, education and training can make the remote work ecosystem thrive. By supporting mental health in this ecosystem, remote work becomes a more positive and effective experience for everyone.