How can you support your colleagues’ mental health remotely?

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Moving to remote working as part of business norm, needs careful consideration by employers.

Throughout the pandemic I trained 100’s of people on how to spot signs of someone experiencing poor mental health and what they can do to support. One of the biggest challenges that we face is supporting those people who are working remotely. Many of us believed whilst in lockdown that this would be a short-term problem initially. 

However it’s now clear that how we work and where we work has changed significantly. With Hybrid working, office for some roles and not for others in the same organisation or some roles moving to remote working permanently. 

Businesses are now implementing these ways of working but with this new world how do we spot someone experiencing mental difficulty and how do we use our skills in spotting signs of poor mental health in a different way.

Getting to know people and how they behave when interacting remotely is important. If we know that they usually keep their camera on but are now turning it off that could be a sign. If someone becomes difficult to get hold of again this could be a sign that they are experiencing challenges.

The same way we get information from physical signs such as facial expression or body language. Whilst we still may be able to pick up on a few of these signs if using video technology. We must remember we can also tell quite a lot by the pace, pitch, and tone of someone’s voice. We have all had those phone conversations where someone does “sound themselves” so we can still use our skills to identify in this way.

Continuous comfortable communication is important. What I mean by that is that we aren’t just forgetting to keep in touch because we don’t see people. We drop in messages that don’t feel like we are harassing someone but it’s comfortable enough for that person to not feel alone.

It is important for businesses who are now using remote working as a regular option for their employees that they consider what they have in place to support the mental health of those individuals.

Lots of businesses who use EAP (Employee Assistance Programmes) for example, should be speaking to their providers about what provisions they have in place for those who are working remotely.

Signposting and pathways for support need to be clear to all employees and communicated effectively. Line managers are key in this communication as they are the most likely people to have regular contact with those working remotely.

Investing in line manager training is paramount to the success of embedding these new ways of working. A line manager needs to have the confidence and skills of managing in a variety of ways. I know from personal experience moving from managing people who are sat with you every day to managing those who are working remotely or in the field is a huge transition. Businesses should be investing in training their managers now so that they can support their teams through this change. 

Introduction of key roles such as Mental Health First Aiders is a great way for businesses to ensure that mental health is being championed. The training is broad and in-depth giving teams of people within and organisation the skills needed to identify and support recovery with early intervention being key to minimising the risk of developing a mental health illness.

Other supports such as the promotion of self-help tools & tips on how to approach working from home should be communicated, reviewed, and updated regularly. With the Stress risks assessment from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) being an important legal requirement that needs to be considered.

Now is the time for acting and investing to secure the future for both business and employees.

Claire Bennett
Mental health and Wellbeing Consultant
Hornbeam Training & Wellbeing

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