Specialist insight

How to support your remote employees’ mental health

Reading time:  3 Minutes

The issue of employee wellbeing has never been more of a consideration for organisations and leaders. So, what should you be doing to support your team? We ask an expert for advice

As we continue to adapt to a new working reality, many professionals find themselves at an emotional crossroads. While there were already increasing rates of anxiety, depression and burnout before the crisis, reports now suggest that these are even more prevalent.

“These past months have been tumultuous,” says business coach Mimi Nicklin. “Our lives have been changed immeasurably, not least by much of our business now being driven by communication via a screen alone.”

The good news, she adds, is that it’s within the power of a leader to help your colleagues during these challenging times. Understanding what positive mental health looks like, and how to foster it, benefits everyone within an organisation – as well as the organisation itself. Here, she shares her insights and tips.

What does positive mental health within a team look like?

It’s not necessarily about having a ‘smiley’ team – it’s also about attitude and output. Emotionally healthy teams are more likely to demonstrate consistent enthusiasm for growth and high levels of natural energy and passion for projects, as well as high levels of engagement and conversation.

How does it benefit a leader to have a team with good mental health?
Emotionally healthy teams benefit from lower levels of absenteeism, self-censorship and staff turnover, alongside higher levels of morale, performance, communication and innovation.

What can leaders do to help their team?

While business used to be founded on performance and pay, there’s now a third critical criteria for success – purpose. You need to find ways to make your organisation’s purpose relevant to the individuals working within it. This can be done by talking to your colleagues about their experience of the last few months and their needs and expectations for the future, so that these can be aligned to the larger organisational vision.

What is the role of empathy?

Research indicates that being able to use empathy is crucial for our mental health and resilience and will add immeasurably to relationship success and performance. The first step lies in understanding the realities of each team member – which means making the effort to ask. At a large scale, this might be through questionnaires, surveys and feedback forms while, on a smaller level, it could be through one-to-one or small group discussions.

Once you’ve built a culture that values open and focused listening and feedback, you then need to ensure that you regularly ask team members of all levels the question, “How can I help?”

How else can leaders practically support their employees’ mental health?

Make expert advice and support available as a resource to all staff. Employees that are able to access forms of therapy or counselling on a confidential and easily accessible basis are more likely to reach peak performance, as well as stay loyal and committed to the organisation.

What should leaders avoid doing?

Don’t ask for feedback and commentary from staff and then fail to close the loop by confirming what you’ve heard and what you’re doing as a result. If you ask for feedback, you don’t need to action everything specifically, but you should always confirm how and why it was or wasn’t used on this occasion. If you don’t do this, people won’t be so open to sharing next time you ask.

Mimi Nicklin hosts the Empathy for Breakfast show and Secrets of The Gap podcast, and is author of new book, Softening the Edge

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