Paul Finch, CEO A People Business and Founder Red Trouser Day
UK organisations are currently losing £100m every year because of work-related stress, depression and anxiety and as more employees work from home or remotely, poorly managed flexible working practices could mean this figure will rise.
Many employees already feel uncomfortable talking about mental health in the workplace, but less contact with teams and management only makes it harder for employees to open up about their concerns and problems. Having workers scattered and isolated across different locations makes it difficult to create the sense of having a proper support network, especially for those dealing with mental health problems.
So how can you make sure you look after the wellbeing of your employees working remotely?
Before you can hope to support and improve the wellbeing of your employees, you first need to better understand mental health issues and how to spot the symptoms. This is all a question of education, ensuring that all managers and other employees can recognise when colleagues are struggling. For remote workers, this poses a particular challenge, but there are still simple signs that you should look out for. Does someone keep falling behind on deadlines or are they generally less responsive on emails and messages? These can all be potential indicators.
Offer online support
Bringing up a difficult conversation about mental health is particularly difficult if employees are working alone at home. This is where you need to use technology to help build an extended community and create a virtual support network. Using tools like Yammer and Rungway, for example, can provide a way for employees to voice concerns and troubles online as well as receive support and guidance from others.
Keep communication transparent
Even when your employees are not physically in the office, it is still critical that they are aware of everything that is going on. From important business developments to the mundane, such as that great joke being shared around, make sure your remote workers are included. For any last-minute meetings provide some dial-in details for them to listen in and take part. If your team has an impromptu brainstorm, sparking some great new ideas, make sure to loop in remote members of the team with a summary message or email – this will also help solidify the ideas in your own head. Even if employees are working elsewhere they should not feel like an outsider.
Get employees involved
However great the developments in technology with video conferencing and virtual meetings, at the end of the day it is still important to have some real face time with your employees. Ensure that your remote workers spend at least one day a month in the office and that they also maximise this time to further establish their network and meet up with their buddies or mentors.
Having charity initiatives in the workplace can be another great way to encourage employees into the office and help create a feeling of inclusivity. The key is to set a low bar for participation. This could be something as simple as donning a pair of red trousers, for example, to support the fight against bowel cancer on Red Trouser Day. Helping employees to help others also provides your staff with a real sense of satisfaction and purpose, boosting their self-esteem and general wellbeing as a result.
Few businesses now follow the traditional nine-to-five schedule working in an office – employees could be working remotely from anywhere and even at any time. But just because employees aren’t in the office, doesn’t mean their wellbeing should be overlooked. In fact, it is even more important. To truly support your workforce, you need to look after the wellbeing of every single employee wherever they are.