Remote Working Mental Heath: 10 Smart Ways to Support Employees

Cassy Aite
May 13, 2022
Remote Working Mental Heath: How to Support Employees From Anywhere

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to embrace working from home. But now that people are vaccinated, it seems like many employees and employers are unlikely to return to their offices.

A Gartner survey found that 70% of employees wish to continue some form of remote work. Top companies like Facebook and Twitter have also made adjustments to make remote workforces permanent — and ones that aren’t offering full remote working are open to half or partial remote work.

This makes sense as employees get more freedom and flexibility, and employers save more money. Both enjoy more time with family and friends. Remote working has undoubtedly become a full-fledged global movement, but there’s a key factor people are ignoring: mental health.

The truth about remote working and mental health

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) conducted a survey that found the majority of employees working from home had experienced negative mental health impacts, including loneliness, isolation, and an unhealthy work-life balance.

Another study by Buffer found that 22% of employees found it difficult to unplug after work. The same study also highlighted that 19% of employees suffered from loneliness, while 8% had difficulties staying motivated.

Clearly, the picture isn’t all rosy. Below are some of the main consequences of remote working on employee mental health:

Loneliness and isolation

Working from home can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for those who live alone.

Being part of the company’s bigger picture, where they meet and brainstorm with other co-workers regularly, makes employees feel more confident and connected with daily company happenings. Commuting to the office also lets employees exchange pleasantries with people in restaurants, gas stations, or coffee shops, which employees working from home miss out on.

Whether it’s employees or employers, we are all social human beings who thrive on human interaction. Working remotely can make them miss and crave human interaction, which can lead to depression and lower productivity.

Loss of work-life balance

Work-life balance can go both ways when it comes to remote work. Some people claim to enjoy a better work-life balance, but many find the opposite to be true.

There is no physical distinction between where an employee works and where they spend their free time, making it difficult for them to unplug and stop focusing on work and enjoy time away from their jobs.

Work bleeds over into their home life more with every passing day. It can start from simple things like responding to an email when spending time with friends, and can quickly turn into extra work after clocking out for the day. The line between work and home gets blurred, which can quickly lead to burnout and lower morale.

Difficulty concentrating at work

Don’t get us wrong — employees can experience various distractions when working at an office. But when working from home, they face even more distractions (think: children, pets, spouses, a shiny TV with a Netflix subscription).

Not everyone has a home office to easily shut out outside noise. In these cases, you may need to give them a work from home stipend to build a dedicated workspace, create a realistic schedule, and provide access to childcare.

Lack of interpersonal relationships

Working in an office creates opportunities for employees to bond over shared experiences that eventually build camaraderie and encourage social interaction. On the other hand, working remotely makes it more difficult to establish this relationship among co-workers.

This holds true even when we consider modern means of communication like online chat systems, teleconferencing, and instant messaging.

Inconvenience to new employees

Another disadvantage of remote work is the greater inconvenience for new employees.

Starting a new job is always stressful, even under the best of circumstances. So when you put new hires in a work-from-home situation and away from a traditional office, they may feel overwhelmed and confused when it comes to doing their jobs.

Not only do new employees have to learn how to perform in the new role, but they must also understand the work culture, navigate new technology, and build their place within the organization — all through virtual means — which is in no way an easy feat.

Remote work can have serious disadvantages to mental health. But with some adjustments and developments, you can easily mitigate and transform them into advantages to ensure mental health at work.

How to boost the mental health of your remote workers

Business leaders are finally acknowledging the disadvantages of remote work, but more importantly, they are taking the necessary measures to ensure employee wellbeing and improve engagement and motivation.

With May being the month of Mental Health Awareness, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective mental health awareness month activities for employees to boost employee wellbeing at your company below.

1. Consistently recognize and appreciate your employees

One of the most desired well-being initiatives is luckily also the easiest to implement: recognizing your employees for their efforts and achievements.

No, seriously. 70% of employees say recognition makes them emotionally connected to their peers, while another 70% say being appreciated for their efforts makes them happy at home. That’s the impact of having a recognition-rich company culture.

While you can always buy your employees memorable gifts to make them feel special, you don’t always have to spend a lot of money. Giving them a handwritten thank you note, rewarding them with a day off to spend time with their friends and family, and giving them a public shoutout for their efforts and wins work just as well.

2. Share helpful mental health resources

Support the mental health of your remote workers by sharing helpful resources discussing mental wellbeing.

Send it out monthly in a company-wide email or post on your company‘s blog. If your company uses Slack, create a dedicated channel where you and other members share links to blog posts and articles that can help employees better manage their mental peace.

3. Promote employee well-being through Hoppier 

Hoppier is a virtual engagement tool that lets you issue smart digital Visa cards for your team members to spend freely on food and rewards they like — all while staying within your approved budget. Your team members can order from the largest choice of global and local vendors like Amazon, Postmates, and UberEats.

While there are tons of ways you can use Hoppier to improve your employees’ mental health, here are a few suggestions:

  • Give them subscriptions to wellness apps like Headspace, Talkspace, and Calm to make employees physically and mentally fit as they work from home. Through Hoppier, you can offer them a monthly subscription to any app of their choice.
  • Have fun and unique team-building sessions. Use Hoppier’s virtual credit cards to give employees the means to buy the necessary ingredients for the class. For instance, they can buy from Alcohol delivery and Wine.com for a mixology event or AmazonFresh and Instacart for a continental cuisine cooking class.
  • Send them thoughtfully curated work-from-home survival kits. While signing up with certain e-commerce sites and ordering premade kits is a good option, you can also give it a more personalized touch with Hoppier. Send employees our virtual cards and let them shop their favorite work items from online platforms like Apple and Best Buy.
  • Make employees feel special on their birthdays and work anniversaries. Celebrate their big day with them by gifting them lunch or dinner. Get them to use their Hoppier cards to order whatever they like from vendors like GrubHub, Starbucks, and Caviar.

4. Plan a special Mental Health Awareness week or month activity

If you plan to celebrate Mental Health Awareness month, work with your team members to organize a guided activity encouraging your remote workforce to distress, relax, and refocus.

Depending on whether you want to make it a weekly or monthly activity, encourage your team to enjoy each other’s company without discussing work. You can organize meditation exercises, relaxing tastings, or reinvigorating spa sessions to reduce stress and improve moods.

5. Encourage employees to take regular breaks

Employees might not take breaks when there is still work left to be done, either because they feel guilty or fear getting negative points for taking it easy. This kind of thinking is unhealthy and affects their mental well-being, ultimately leading to burnout.

A healthy work schedule always includes breaks. Allow your employees the option to be more flexible when it comes to their working schedules. This will give them the time to meet their work-life balance and personal commitments while helping them maintain workplace productivity.

Encourage employees to achieve a better work-life balance by taking regular breaks. Get them to stretch, go on walks, or treat themselves to a healthy snack. If someone on your team is sick, urge them to take it easy and take the day off.

In addition to improving workplace mental health, having flexible work and break policies will also help your company attract top-performing talent and retain the current workforce.

6. Plan frequent fitness challenges and gaming sessions

What better way to kickstart your company‘s well-being into gear than a fitness challenge?

Fitness challenges are not only fun and friendly but also encourage employees to push themselves harder and take charge of their physical and mental health. For instance, you can hold a “walking“ challenge, where you give each employee a fitness tracker to log in their daily steps. One who has walked the most number of steps at the end of the month gets rewarded.

Alternatively, you can have virtual gaming sessions to promote camaraderie. Pair employees together and play a classic game like video charades or Pictionary. Towards the end, your team will feel a sense of togetherness and belonging, helping eliminate negative feelings of loneliness and depression.

7. Leverage technology to stay connected remotely

Staying connected with your team in a remote working world is challenging. You have to deal with different time zones, availability, and several other factors that can make employees feel alone — but not anymore!

Today, you can use various tools and technologies that make it easier than ever for remote teams to stay connected. They are the virtual equivalent of popping over to a colleague‘s desk to ask a question or chat. For instance, Zoom is perfect to schedule virtual meetups, and Slack helps to keep your team up-to-date with recent happenings.

Encourage your workforce to communicate with each other and be open for not just work-related reasons, but also for socializing. Aside from the typical remote working tools, use platforms like Donut and Coffee Roulette to help your employees to get to know each other better and form stronger team bonding.

8. Schedule regular check-ins with your employees

Working remotely can make employees feel like they are not visible to their superiors and team members. This can make them feel worried about their performance and disconnected from the organization.

As a manager, it's your responsibility to regularly check in with your remote team to ensure everyone is satisfied, plus keep them in the loop about what’s happening. Schedule a team check-in at the start of every new week, where you ask employees to share their experience of working from home and what’s keeping them busy when they are done for the day.

The idea here is to encourage small talk and personal conversations. This is a great way to learn more about your employees’ personalities and make them feel recognized and seen.

9. Conduct mental health training and sessions

Your employees’ mental health is just as important as their physical health. Unfortunately, mental health issues have a stigma around the world, which makes it hard for people to discuss common feelings like stress and anxiety openly.

The good news: creating an employee mental health program can help break down the stigma. Give your workforce access to virtual mental health training and sessions. Cover practical topics and focus on preventing stress and burnout. You can also onboard experts to tackle individual-specific problems and provide counseling to all.

Remember, the goal here is to encourage open conversations about mental health and give your remote workforce a safe space to share their struggles and issues. Eventually, this will create a safe, engaging, and productive workspace made up of motivated and happy employees.

10. Grant sabbaticals to reduce burnout

Here’s how this works: give employees who reach a specific tenure (usually 3 to 5 years at your company) a 6-8-week long sabbatical. They can use this time to go on a trip, work on a passion project, or volunteer for a public event. The only thing they can’t do is sit at home and wait for the sabbatical to end.

A sabbatical can be personally enriching for employees. It yields new perspectives, new ideas, and new learnings that they can bring back to the company. More importantly, it helps prevent burnout among employees and gives you a chance to thank them for their contribution.

Make remote working mental health a priority

Looking after your employees’ mental well-being has many attractive and effective benefits, including improved workplace morale, happier remote employees, and higher productivity.

Show your employees you care for them. Offer wellness activities to create a sense of community and connectedness between employees, which can be immensely useful with everyone working remotely and from around the world. You can also get started with Hoppier to make the experience more personalized and convenient for employees, regardless of their location and time zone.

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