How’s your remote team doing? In the era of remote work, you can’t just assume everything’s okay. Recent studies show that remote employee stress levels are currently at an all-time high.
In fact, 86% of remote employees experience burnout, and two-thirds regularly experience feelings of isolation. In addition, as many as 80% of UK workers feel like remote working has negatively impacted their mental well-being. And when employees aren’t doing well, everything suffers.
Disengaged workers cost the global economy an estimated $7.8 trillion each year. Reduced productivity caused by anxiety and depression costs another $1 trillion annually. Additionally, 91% of employees say high stress levels impact their work quality.
Despite the media’s recent attention on mental health in the workplace, there seems to be a massive disconnect between employers and employees. Seventy-three percent of employers believe their workers’ well-being is very important, but 45% of their employees believe their employer isn’t supporting their well-being enough.
While these statistics are disconcerting, they don’t negate all the positives of remote working. However, they do highlight the importance of engaging remote employees and supporting their overall mental health.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at mental health in the workplace as it relates to remote teams. Then, we’ll share some tips for how you can support your remote employees’ mental health.
The importance of prioritizing your remote employees’ mental health
Mental health in the workplace can’t be ignored or taken for granted. It directly impacts performance, productivity, satisfaction and many other vital metrics. For example,
- People experiencing poor mental health are less productive, engaged and satisfied. Their cognitive and physical health declines, leading to increased absenteeism.
- Poor mental health in the workplace has rippling financial, personal, social, health and performance-related ramifications.
- Simply suffering from excessive stress damages brain structures, reduces immune functions, leads to PTSD and increases inflammation, depression and anxiety.
In short, poor mental health can have disastrous impacts on your employees and your company, and it’s one of the most prominent remote work challenges. That’s why It’s time to focus on improving mental health in your workplace.
5 ways to support your remote employees’ mental health
Here are five things you can do to prioritize mental health in your organization.
1. Offer a variety of mental health and well-being benefits
One of the best and most straightforward ways to support your remote employees is to offer a variety of mental health and well-being benefits. Some examples include:
- Virtual support
- Fitness center passes
- Self-assessment tools
- Professional development opportunities
- Mental health care
- Access to mental health apps
- and more.
It’s also vital to incorporate plenty of avenues for your remote teams to socialize, so they feel more connected to your company and each other.
2. Make sure remote working employees are aware of available mental health resources
Benefits often go unused simply because team members don’t know about them or fully understand them. And mental health benefits are even less utilized and understood than others.
One reason for this underutilization is that conversations around benefits often focus on other resources like paid leave and traditional healthcare (versus mental health or fringe benefits). So, ensure that remote teams clearly understand their mental health benefits and available resources. Never assume they know what’s available.
3. Destigmatize and normalize mental health in the workplace
We’ve come a long way, but stigma and discrimination around mental health in the workplace still exist. Research done by McKinsey’s Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare found that 37% of employees with a behavioral health condition and 57% of employees with substance use disorders would avoid treatment to prevent people from finding out. Additionally, almost seven in ten employees experiencing high self-stigmatization levels reported missing work due to burnout or stress.
Stigma against workplace mental health is a pervasive issue that leaders must address from the top down. It takes place in three forms: self-stigma, social stigma and structural.
- Self-stigma occurs from internalizing and believing negative stereotypes. People experiencing self-stigma may feel incompetent, worthless, broken, purposeless, etc.
- Social stigma refers to negative societal attitudes toward certain people. People experiencing stigmatized conditions may be isolated, looked down on, feared or discredited by others when social stigma occurs.
- Structural stigma is system-level discrimination, such as having healthcare benefits, policies or practices that treat mental health differently than other conditions.
Employers seem aware of this issue but aren’t doing much about it. In McKinsey’s research, 75% of queried employers reported the presence of mental health stigma in their workplace. But only 17% prioritized addressing it. On the other hand, 80% of employees felt an awareness or anti-stigma campaign would be helpful.
Destigmatization is a remote work leadership issue that employees can’t handle on their own. Executives, supervisors and remote team leaders need to create organizational systems, policies and cultural norms that destigmatize mental health in the workplace.
A few tips include giving all organizational members mental health literacy training, training supervisors to recognize distress and encouraging leaders to share their experiences with behavioral or mental health challenges.
4. Keep remote teams active and moving
Stanford found that remote work takes physical activity levels from bad to worse. Working remotely is associated with a 41% higher likelihood of sitting more and a 62% higher probability of exercising less. Americans working from home full-time sit for an average of 9.2 hours per day versus 7.3 hours for those going into the office. Exercise times dropped, and sitting times went up.
Two hours might not sound like much, but sedentary levels are already too high – especially for white-collar professionals. And a sedentary lifestyle has negative impacts on physical, emotional and mental health.
Employers can help remote teams stay active throughout the day. A few ideas include offering wearable devices featuring behavioral change techniques, gamifying physical activity, giving exercise break times and providing memberships to online fitness classes.
Workplaces might want to subsidize activity-friendly remote work equipment, such as standing desks, balance ball chairs or desk treadmills. The CDC recommends subsidizing fitness memberships, healthy food delivery and at-home exercise equipment.
Companies can also create a remote working culture that promotes and supports physical activity. One way to do that is to allow employees to call into meetings while moving around rather than appear on video. Another way is to create achievable group challenges, goals and rewards.
5. Make sure remote team members take their time off
People need to take time off from work to maintain their mental health, but they don’t always take it – even when they have a solid benefits package. Another issue is employees doing work-related activities while on leave – like checking emails or checking up on projects.
A Glassdoor survey of American employees with paid time off benefits found the average employee had only taken 54% of their eligible time off. And 66% of employees reported working during vacation days. In addition, 27% reported being expected to be aware of work and step in when required.
The main reasons for employees’ inability to disconnect are job insecurity and fearfulness. Employees are concerned about appearing uncommitted, less dedicated, looking like a slacker, being passed over for promotions and even being fired. Other concerns include not wanting to fall behind or add to their team members’ workloads. Additionally, many remote employees find it difficult to justify taking time off while working from home.
Leadership needs to ensure remote teams are taking time off and staying away from work while doing so. HR Executive suggests having leadership set an example by publicly taking PTO, empathically encouraging employees to do the same and promoting the benefits of time off – especially those related to productivity and work performance.
Make mental health a priority in your remote team
Mental health in the workplace is more important to workers now than it was during the pandemic – especially for people working remotely. However, many businesses aren’t connected enough with remote workers to know how much they’re doing, when they’re working and what they need.
At Outstaffer.com, we can help you eliminate that disconnect.
As an Employer of Record, we make it easy to hire, onboard and manage remote employees from around the world. Plus, our #WorkFromAnywhere platform makes it easy to stay connected with features like Managed Devices, Workforce Monitoring, Attendance Tracking, VR Workplaces and more.
Want to learn more? Reach out now to get started.