Supporting Mental Health and Wellbeing for Remote Employees

Posted February 26, 2018 by Sasha Butkovich in Managing Your Team
When hiring remote employees, it’s important to think about the impact isolation can have. How can you best support the mental health of your remote team members?

For employers growing their business, hiring remote employees offers many benefits. But having remote team members can also come with its share of challenges.

In order to have a healthy business, it’s important to look out for the health and wellbeing of your employees, including their mental health. This can be especially difficult when your employees work in other states or work from home.

Unaddressed depression in the workplace can cause employee morale to suffer and makes your employees feel alone or isolated. For remote employees, these feelings of isolation may already be amplified.

Fortunately there are some strategies you can use to help your remote workers stay healthy and happy.

We’ve gathered our top resources to help you promote workplace wellness. Download our Employee Wellness Kit for the complete guide.

Mental Health at Remote Workplaces

Nearly one in five American adults will experience mental illness in a given year. Despite this, there is still a significant stigma around mental health issues. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found only 25% of people with mental health symptoms feel that others are caring or sympathetic about their illness.

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For remote employees, there are other considerations. Working remotely or from home may seem like a great perk, but these employees miss out on things like colleague interaction and office provisions. Even loneliness can take a toll on people.

Related Article: Hiring Remote Employees In A New State: Know The Rules

According to Fast Company, research published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science took a look at the impacts of loneliness on health. The researchers found that social isolation increases the risk of mortality by 29%.

In addition, social isolation and loneliness can sometimes lead to issues like stress-related sick leave and cardiovascular health complications. Facilitating more connections could help to mitigate these risks.

As an employer, there are ways you can help.

Emphasize Interaction and Connection

Encourage all employees to help remote folks feel included. Don’t leave it all on the remote team member to forge connections, but rather aim to make these interactions a priority for the whole team.

Although employees who work from home may be physically alone, there are many ways for them to interact with other members of the team throughout the day.

Thanks to technology, there are many strategies you can use to help remote employees feel less isolated:

  • Utilize Slack, WhatsApp, or other messaging apps to create group channels where your workers can communicate with each other.
  • Encourage your employees to communicate socially on channels, as well as for work purposes.
  • Set up weekly or monthly staff meetings, either via video chat, or in person whenever possible.

Also, make sure supervisors are checking in regularly with their remote staff and addressing any issues they may have.

You can also consider encouraging remote employees to forge connections beyond the workplace. Networking with other remote workers and freelancers is a great way for them to not only interact socially, but to expand their professional networks. Meetup can be a great resource for finding professional and hobby groups across the country, and beyond.

You can also provide resources or information about support groups in the remote employee’s area that offer help dealing with a variety of issues. Generally these kinds of groups are free, and can be great resources for people going through stress or difficult life events.

Encourage Breaks

Employees who work from home may go the whole workday without interacting with another person. There is also the potential to fall into unhealthy habits. When an employee is already at home, it can be hard to find that important work-life balance.

It’s a good idea to encourage remote employees to take breaks throughout the day. Getting outside to take a walk in the park or heading to the gym for a workout are both healthy and helpful for relieving stress. There are many other ways an employee might take their break away from the computer, but the important thing is to take that time to reset, regroup, and relax.

Related Article: Improve Your Mental Health at Work With These 6 Midday Break Ideas

Of course, it’s tough for people to take breaks when they have a heavy workload, due to fears that they might fall behind. Make sure that managers are assigning realistic timelines and achievable goals for remote staff, much like they would for any other employee.

Provide Access to Mental Health Services

As we know, there is still a stigma around mental health issues in the U.S. Many people suffering from these symptoms don’t want to talk about them the same way they may talk about a physical illness. A solution is to offer remote employees the help they need by providing access to anonymous mental health services and support that they can access anytime.

Related Article: What Mental Health Benefits Should You Offer Your Employees?

One great way to do this is through telemedicine, which includes mental health services. For example, Justworks offers access to Talkspace to our employees. This platform provides secure and anonymous online therapy, where users can access confidential help from professionals, any time of day.

Remote services like these are helpful for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re anonymous, so people don’t have to feel that stigma. Secondly, they’re generally available at any time of day. Another great benefit is that they can be made accessible to anyone at the company — in-office and remote team members alike.

Finally, employers might consider an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP. An EAP can help small businesses and their employees with a variety of issues in and out of the workplace, including mental health services and employee assistance.

Justworks has teamed up with Health Advocate to offer our customers access to a number of helpful services to members with mental health needs, including:

  • In-person, telephonic, and video counseling
  • Licensed Professional Counselors who address stress, depression, family issues, substance abuse, and more
  • Referrals for long-term counseling or specialized care

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Again, the ease and convenience of these mental health services can be incredibly helpful to remote employees dealing with stress, loneliness, or other issues.

Employees who have the resources to manage their mental health and wellbeing, as well as other issues outside of the workplace, will prove to be greater assets to your business, and create a more positive working environment.