As organisations, we often don’t realise the level of support and impact we can have on our people’s mental health. As we move to more dispersed teams and remote working arrangements, the potential for not realising someone is suffering from professional isolation becomes far greater. So how can we help our people, without the powers of observation in real time that we would have had were we in the office.
At Our Tandem, we have seen a rise in the frequency of times ‘mental health’ has been mentioned in our check-in features over the past six months, and this appears to be a common trend right across Europe and the US. Often, our managers aren’t prepared for these conversations and are ill equipped to advise and take the right next steps. So how, as employers, can we help our people through this difficult time and play our part in caring for our people’s mental health? There are a number of practical steps you can take now that make all the difference to the human, behind the zoom/teams meeting.
Combatting Professional Isolation
In recent research, it has been identified that the introduction of mentors had a highly positive correlation in combatting professional isolation. Often having someone to talk to, who you don’t directly report or hold accountability to can be a powerful means of removing the isolation that can build up over time in remote working environments. It’s a simple, cost effective and easy means of introducing a support measure to your people.
While differing people will have different reactions to remote working, it’s fair to say that some of our colleagues will be missing the interaction and the external validation they often receive in working life. Moments of validation come in a myriad of forms in office life – such as engagement and agreement during meetings, a smile at the coffee corner and a quick passing well done from the boss as they pass your desk. All these individual moments are lost to us in a remote working environment. As such, there is a need to heighten moments of recognition and put routines in for managers to purposefully recognise someone on the team. ‘Feedback Fridays’ or appreciation moments can be powerful reminders to managers to recognise and keep feedback flowing.
Often employees can experience heightened anxiety when missing the presence of the office. Concerned that they are not being asked to the right meetings or involved in the right level of decision making, the fear of missing out becomes very real and sometimes distorted in a remote setting. Ensuring managers are checking in with their people in a routine way facilitates an open discussion to reassure their employees that all is well and identify if they are falling out of communication loops. A greater frequency and regularity to one to one meetings is key here, ensuring that mangers are checking in on their people.
Humanising the check-in experience
Check-ins will also need to take a different form. Traditionally, it was tempting to fall into a pattern of discussing the work, and not necessarily the human behind the work. It’s more important than ever to humanise the experience and ensure that managers are kicking off those check-ins by asking their employees how they are coping. Some early conversational starters can be helpful guidance for managers to get them through those early parts of the conversation with ease. Guides, tips or even a short course can be helpful to managers to have those conversations that may lead to the identification of an employee who’s struggling.
Six ways to raise community spirit
It’s long been understood that community is a great means of lifting spirits, keeping everyone connected and gaining the camaraderie of being in it together. It’s never been more pressing to raise the level of community spirit in your organisation. Here’s some quick wins that can create the connection that most of your people will crave:
- Overcommunicate. Your people want to know what’s going on and they will have concerns. Open communication about the challenges will create a trusted environment. Showing resilience and optimism in your leaders will also reassure and demonstrate that you all work toward a common goal.
- Have very clear goals. When people feel more part of something bigger than themselves, it’s uplifting and creates a sense of purpose. Being very clear about goals and linking them to wider departmental or where relevant organisational goals, can bring a great sense of mission and purpose to an individual.
- Harness the power of the crowd and launch virtual coffee meets. Pair people together who’ve never met to meet for coffee and get to know each other.
- Virtual networking. Networking is key to combat professional isolation so creating virtual moments where people can gather to get to know each other and perhaps learn together can be really powerful. Everything from cooking classes to personal development has been tried and tested to great impact.
- Facilitate peers to give each other feedback. It is important to recognise each other for a job well done, adding to that sense of all working, and appreciating each other together.
- Give people opportunities to grow and personally develop by adding to your learning suite. Resilience programmes or 360 can be really useful in helping your people discover their best selves.
In the year we’ve experienced to date, there is no doubt that resilience has been required. But resilience throughout your organisation may be flagging in the latter part of the year. There are several means to diagnose the resilience and agility in both your organisation and in the individual, giving you a gauge of whether interventions are required to raise the resilience of your people. HR can take a proactive role in this, in measuring the resilience and then identifying where the concerns may lie.
How Employers can help
HR can use a range of employee experience platforms and tools – such as Our Tandem, to heighten communication throughout the business. One feature to use is pulse surveys, which measure the resilience and indeed the morale of your people. While you may want to avoid an over zealous approach that leads to survey fatigue, pulse surveys on a monthly basis can be a great means of checking in with your people and identifying if there are interventions that would help. Our Tandem offer a range of features that benefit the employee, manager, HR department and business performance as a whole – including pulse and agility surveys.
Finally, mental health can often be derived from that sense of nobody cares, nobody sees and the risk of that is far greater than ever. Giving employees voice and a sense of community will help to overcome those feelings of professional isolation. Asking our managers and leaders to take care and take note when they have concerns for their people can make all the difference. There are many processes in HR we can look to where we can rehumanise the whole experience for our people and we shouldn’t be shy about trying new things in a very new working world to transform our processes and our people management strategy.