As of late, it’s not unusual to hear someone talking about their home office, bedroom, or kitchen table as their workplace. Remote workers tend to have a wide assortment of benefits, but it comes with a list of challenges, especially if they are used to working in a traditional office environment. Remote work can cause a person to become overwhelmed and isolated. There is a good chance that a number of your remote workers are having a difficult time remaining mentally healthy.
Managers must ensure that their remote workers are taking care of themselves through these trying times. Mental health has become a growing concern for many, especially with how rough life has been for many people in the past year. Declining mental health will lead to some severe problems crop up that can impact the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, remote workers are likely to deal with stress, anxiety, pressure, depression, loneliness, and isolation.
With the number of people growing more interested in remaining remotely, organizations need to provide their remote workers with the information they need to keep themselves mentally healthy. Here are some tips on how remote workers can remain mentally healthy.
Set a schedule
Establishing a routine helps develop a barrier between work and home life. By not doing so, these two can become blurred and cross over too many times, leading to the remote employee experiencing stress. Not maintaining a steady schedule can throw you off your track, to the point where you could start missing out on proper sleep.
While remote working does offer the flexibility stuff normally not possible, as long as the work gets done, there should still be some sort of schedule in place. From the time you wake up to the chores you need to do around the house and the time you can sit down in your office chair and start working on the tasks. You could use an app that lets you set up an alarm that goes off when it's time to do something else, such as go out for lunch or even a walk around the block.
By establishing a routine, you’ll be able to remain on a path that ensures you get everything done in time and doesn’t lead to increasing levels of stress. No longer will you need to worry about the possibility of allowing your work and home life to be thrown into complete disorder.
Set up a dedicated workspace
If possible, encourage your remote workers to find a spot away from other people and distractions, such as the TV. Set up a place that has everything you need before starting on the work. Things like pens, paper, chargers, and any other essential items should be set on the workspace. If the spot is inside of a room, close the door to prevent outside noise from causing further distraction.
Another critical part of setting up a workspace is making sure it’s comfortable. It can be tempting to sit on the sofa, but it's far better to sit at a desk or table. If certain items are unavailable, such as an adjustable chair, consider using things like a cushion to support yourself on a chair or a box as a footrest. Another option is to build a makeshift desk by using an upside-down basket with a flat bottom. This can be used to set up the laptop on a bed, a table, or on a counter to make a standing desk. However, make sure to make proper adjustments when your body starts to feel uncomfortable due to the awkward position the setup is in.
Remote managers should also set up a budget that allows remote employees to request items they need for their work. Set aside a budget that enables them to purchase things like keyboards or headsets. That way, they can have everything they need to work from home.
Mobile workspaces are capable of assisting some people with their concentration. If you need to move around, consider setting up a few spaces around the household where you can work with little to no distraction. It can also help with a person’s posture since they need to change their sitting arrangement. Plus, giving yourself a certain amount of time in each spot can assist with managing your time better.
The workspace you create in these spots should be ergonomic. It helps eliminate any risk factors that could cause bodily injuries and allow for better performance and productivity. Sitting on a couch or bed may seem like a pleasant idea, but typing on your laptop while doing so can lead to an uncomfortable experience after a while, causing strain on the neck and back area.
Staying in contact
As mentioned before, working from home comes with several benefits, but it also leads to people feeling isolated from their fellow workers. Fortunately, there are many ways for remote workers to remain in contact with their team members. Managers need to establish the tools everyone will be using to keep in communication and set up channels that will allow them to speak to each other about things aside from work-related tasks. By ensuring that everyone on the team is remaining in communication with each other, the feeling of isolation is reduced, and their mental health is improved.
Encourage your workers to frequently communicate with each other by setting up meetings that can allow time for team activities. However, some people may not live in the same timezone as each other, so it’s important to stress that no one is obligated to answer if they are off working hours. If they are on the clock and receive a message, it’s up to them to decide on an answer, but they should still be prompted to spend some time talking to their teammates on the channels, even if the response is at a later time. If any people work within the same hour, you could always set up a channel where they can hang out with each other.
Lastly, remind everyone that their fellow remote team members also feel the same. Remain courteous and ask how they are doing or if they need assistance with anything. Remote teams need to make time for virtual socializing, set up breaks for getting together when possible.
Take frequent breaks
The human body wasn’t designed to remain sitting for eight hours straight. It was built to have us move around and endure the harshness that is mother nature. Managers and remote employees need to be aware that their team members are not always going to be sitting in front of the screen ready to answer emails or take virtual calls at any given time. It’s crucial to prompt everyone to take breaks and move their body for a few minutes throughout the working day. Doing so can help them refresh their minds, concentrate, and be prepared for the following tasks to come.
A great way to go about this is by using a bathroom that is furthest away from the workstation to move your body more. Taking the stairs or walking while speaking on the phone, or even sitting on an exercise ball while working, can help the body remain healthy, which will overall impact mental health. If possible, encourage your remote employees to get standing and split their time between sitting and standing.
However, moving around the house isn’t the only way to maintain mental health. Workers should be encouraged to go outside since the human body requires sunlight to remain healthy as well. There are plenty of people out there who are diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency, and going outside even for a couple of minutes during the day can vastly improve a person’s mental health.
Studies have shown that taking a walk in nature can reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression among people while also increasing their mood and well-being. Even something like the sound of nature can trigger these relaxation responses in the brain. The next time you see one of your team members say they're going to take a break, encourage them to go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the weather.
Chances are, others in the household are also working from home. It’s vital to encourage remote workers to speak with the other members of the household and set up boundaries. Establishing boundaries will impact the overall mental well-being of the employee while they work from home.
Since remote working offers flexibility, they can choose the best time to buckle down and tackle their work. However, it can be challenging if there are other distractions to deal with, such as children at home, who may think their parents are home because they are on holiday and wish to spend time with them. Remote workers need to sit down with their families and discuss their needs. Remind them that they are still working and need some time to get it done. The best way to remind them about this is by sharing a schedule that shows when they are working.
As a bonus, establishing a boundary like this can ensure they remain logged on to their computers only for a set amount of time. Once the work hour is done, they can shut down the computer and enjoy some time with their family.
Remote workers need to be vigilant over their mental health during these trying times. Working from home has provided many people with many opportunities, but it can also add extra stress. If these issues are not addressed immediately, there will be long-term consequences that will impact not only the organization but the employee as well.