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March 5, 2021
by Tina Arnoldi

Remote Employees Concerned about Mental Health

March 5, 2021 08:47 by Tina Arnoldi  [About the Author]

Photo by Beci Harmony on UnsplashOne-third of people working from home during COVID-19 are concerned about their mental health, according to the results of an Aetna survey with 4,000 people. Three-quarters of employees surveyed feel their decline in mental health impacted their productivity. Almost half of employers expressed concern that a lack of social interaction among colleagues will have a long-term negative impact on some workers’ mental health. I invited employers to comment on how they address mental health during a time when many employees work remotely.

Tomasz Lisiecki, founder of Nerd Cow, made changes to encourage better communications among remote team members. “We have regular internal video calls where the webcam is mandatory,” said Lisiecki. “It builds the sense of community and minimizes the distance between us. At the start of the week, we meet for about 30 minutes. We share casual information about our past weekend, moods and plans for the week. Then, in subsequent days, we meet daily for 10 minutes in the morning to report progress on our work and discuss any obstacles.”  

Lisiecki also provides rewards for great work. “From simple things like Fridays off to actual gifts. These gestures are a great way to appreciate everyone's input during those tough times and serve as fantastic mood boosters.”

Rick Hoskins, CEO and founder of Filter King, focuses on “deadlines over presenteeism”, meaning the work results rather than the amount of hours employees work. “Empowering employees to work their own  hours to achieve set goals has many benefits,” said Hoskins. “Employees work when it suits them. They reach that work/life balance, becoming more productive with their tasks. This allowed some staff to cut down to a four day week without a change in salary.”  

Jack Bedell-Pearce, CEO of 4D Data Centres, recognized early on that caring for the mental health of staff was key to the company’s success in weathering the pandemic. He incorporated virtual social interactions between staff. “‘Cuppa Clubs’ are held twice a week for anyone who wants an informal group chat,” said Bedell-Pearce. “We also host Friday afternoon games and quizzes, but we’ve been keen to avoid ‘forced fun’- making none of our activities compulsory.” 

Daniel Carter, founder of ZippyElectrics, has an HR team arrange a monthly social activity. “Its main purpose is to cultivate and promote socialization for our workers who work from home,” said Carter. We also had seminars to educate employees on managing their mental health at home.”

Will Ward, CEO of Translation Equipment HQ, encourages socialization via virtual water cooler meetings. “We have two to three folks grouped on a video call where they have to speak of anything but work. It is a mandatory call. These virtual water cooler meetings receive positive feedback because they help build camaraderie.”

Psychologist Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, Lenox Hill Hospital, addresses this adjustment to remote working with her patients. One suggestion she has is to change the environment. “Consider ways to distinguish between work and home through your senses,” says Romanoff. “Was work often a few degrees colder? Were the lights brighter? Did cleaning supply musk linger in the air? Consider ways to mimic the aspects of your past work environment during the day, and when you clock out, replace those factors with those which make you feel at home. Transforming the space will help create differentiation between work and home activities.” She also believes that even in small spaces, people can create a separate work environment. “You can rearrange the furniture during working hours or use certain supplies during that time. When you finish work, rearrange the space back to home mode. Play Tetris with the space.”

“Before the pandemic, stepping into your home after a long day at work triggered relaxation,” said Romanoff. “We no longer have fixed boundaries between the two, and must learn to maintain them independently to prevent the feeling of living at work and losing your place of refuge.”

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi, MA is a business consultant and freelance writer in Charleston SC. She has reviewed books for PsychCentral and has a portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com


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