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‘THERE ISN’T A RULEBOOK AND THE MENTAL HEALTH IMPACT CANNOT BE UNDERESTIMATED.’

For those who continue to work remotely, it’s vital to monitor your own mental health and look out for your colleagues’ wellbeing. We asked Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, to offer some guidance to employees and managers for managing the impact of the change on our mental health – both during the crisis and when things return to “normal”.

21st April 2020

Bear in mind that co-workers might be having more video calls than usual, so actually a phone call might be a welcome change.

EMMA MAMO, MIND


How can managers offer emotional support remotely – to a team and on an individual level?

Working remotely can be isolating, particularly in the current climate, where we can’t necessarily turn to our usual coping strategies, such as socialising face-to-face with loved ones outside of work or going to the gym.

Loneliness isn’t a mental health problem, but it’s linked to mental health – feeling lonely can contribute to developing things like anxiety and depression. If you’re feeling low or anxious, you might feel like withdrawing from those around you, and it can be difficult to reach out to others.

If you’re a manager, communication is even more important now than ever, so create as many opportunities as possible for your team to tell you about any issues they’re facing, whether personal, professional or both.

Flex your management style depending on the needs of your individual team members where possible – ask them when their preferred time of day to catch up is, as well as their preferred communication channel, whether that’s email, text, phone or video calling using software like Skype, Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Bear in mind that co-workers might be having more video calls than usual, so actually a phone call might be a welcome change. As well as one-to-one check-ins, ensure everyone is catching up as a wider team too, and don’t underestimate the importance of marking out regular time for social activities that can be done over video call, such as quizzes, crafting activities or games.

 

What is your advice to anyone who is feeling anxious, stressed or depressed about any aspect of the situation? Are there different coping techniques depending on the specific trigger for their anxiety?

Most of us will be feeling more anxious than usual in times like this, especially if you already have experience of mental health problems. There’s no “normal” way to emotionally respond to a pandemic – there isn’t a rulebook for this situation, and the mental health impact on us all cannot be underestimated. 

If, like so many employees at the moment, you find yourself working alone, it can make it more challenging for colleagues to notice changes in your mood or behaviour in order to offer support.

It might be useful to let partners, people you live with or friends and family know about possible triggers and what stress and poor mental health looks like for you, so they can spot any deterioration in your mental health. Symptoms can include feelings of isolation, lethargy, lack of self-esteem, restlessness, irritability, or a lack of interest in the things you normally enjoy. Symptoms can be physical as well as emotional, such as having trouble sleeping, eating more or less than usual, or turning to alcohol or drugs.

It’s vital that we’re all taking steps to look after our own mental health at the moment, as well as keeping an eye out for loved ones. There are lots of things you can do to stay as mentally healthy as possible, including trying to establish a routine that includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Self-care is really important in helping us stay physically and mentally well. But if you notice changes to your feelings, thoughts and behaviours that last longer than two weeks, keep returning or are having an impact on your daily life, it could be that you’re experiencing a mental health problem requiring treatment.

Talk to someone you trust, such as a loved one or a health professional. Most GP surgeries are still able to offer consultations via phone or online, but check with your practice to find out what they can do.

 

Do you have any advice for when things return to normal, and people get back to their offices? How can teams reconnect from a wellbeing point of view?

Change is difficult for many of us. The current situation has required us all to make relatively big and sudden changes to our lifestyle, requiring adjustment. This will also be the case after lockdown measures have been lifted.

Some colleagues might find that there were some unexpected perks of being able to work remotely, such as getting to spend more time with family or housemates, finding more time for leisure activities or exercise, getting more sleep and not having to deal with commuting every day. If a colleague is finding the transition back to “normality” difficult, ask them what support they need – could they do a phased return back to their usual place of work for example, by gradually reducing the number of days per week that they work from home?

It’s worth capturing the things that your co-workers are missing at the moment, such as going out for team lunches for example, and organising these kinds of events post-lockdown, as well as trying to find virtual alternatives in the interim.

At Mind, lots of workplace wellbeing initiatives we offer our staff – such as access to reflective practice sessions, subsidised yoga and Pilates classes – have temporarily moved online during lockdown to help ease the transition and reassure colleagues that they’re well supported.

When things return to normal, re-establishing familiar former routines should also help staff adjust to their previous way of working. It might also be a good opportunity to reflect on whether you can continue some of the different ways of working put in place while working remotely, particularly anything that helped make things more streamlined and dynamic.

Things that might have had an unexpected benefit in terms of morale or productivity could be retained and might help with transitioning forward for everyone.


FURTHER RESOURCES FROM MIND

Bear in mind that co-workers might be having more video calls than usual, so actually a phone call might be a welcome change.

EMMA MAMO, MIND

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