Mental Health Week – focus on how people are coping with remote working

In this Mental Health Week it would be negligent not to consider how remote working (or not working) has impacted on the mental health of the UK workforce and on the way managers are managing their teams remotely.

Although many managers are keeping in touch via video links, getting a sense of their teams are coping is much harder without observing someone’s body language and behaviour during a typical working day. Gauging the mental health of a team is difficult at the best of times – but add in other new “norms” such as home schooling, worrying about shielding parents, having adult children move home to quarantine; are all additional worries which will inevitably impact on the mental health of staff.  On top of this, normal medical treatment has been delayed for many, so physical illness is also impacting on mental health – worrying about a condition worsening or about how the pandemic will affect ongoing treatment.

Managers need to know about these issues to be able to help and offer support. This means organising remote one to one meetings and opening up the opportunity to discuss the ancillary issues which might be affecting the ability to work productively.   However, it is important to recognise that support can only extend to signposting and helping lessen the burden of work. This means that managers must not expect too much in terms of the practical help they can provide.

Try thinking about:

  1. What you can directly control: this might include the example you set for others, the workload you allocate to staff and the working conditions. Make sure that remote workers are properly set up – not balancing a lap-top on a knee on the couch; providing correct equipment and resources and encouraging more frequent breaks.
  2. Working hours – perhaps working earlier or later in the day for those staff who are having to consider home-schooling.
  3. What you can influence – maintaining contact with team members using zoom coffee breaks, organising social events remotely or encouraging staff to contact each other to collaborate on work-related discussions.
  4. Your level of expertise.Recognise that some of the things that your staff are dealing may  be outside of your control.  Be empathetic and offer a listening ear but ultimately suggest that the employee seek professional help if the issue is outside of your control.


Finally, be honest with your teams. Do have meaningful conversations about the future and what it might look like in your organisation in terms of employment future, pay and conditions.  Our experience is that employees would rather know sooner than later if there is a difficult situation to face – so talk to your teams and allow them to feel involved in the important decisions about their long term future.

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