Since COVID-19 began and remote work became the norm, reactions have been mixed. While some people were happy to work from home (WFH) indefinitely, research from the University of Southern California indicates that the transition to WFH decreased overall physical and mental well-being among workers, due to lifestyle factors and disruptions to routines.

As we discussed in a Nailted blog post on mentally healthy employeespoor mental health can be aggravated by a stressful work environment. And while employers want their workers to be highly functional and cope with life’s challenges, the prolonged WFH situation has worsened existing problems, such as the failure of business leaders to realize that employees aren’t entirely okay. So what can you do to address this problem, when the workplace is out of your control?

Free Download: 4 Ways Companies Can Offer Mental Health Aid

1. Promote a healthy work-life balance

When the transition came, the main thought in most managers and leaders was how they would maintain productivity. How would they preserve productivity if employees were not at the office anymore? A main goal was in mind: to avoid damaging the company’s performance. 

Some remote employees got better with work-life balance once they started working from home. A Pew Research Center study on COVID-19’s effects on work reveals that 49% of workers found more flexibility with their hours, while 38% of new teleworkers found it easier to balance work with family responsibilities. Not needing to commute and being able to shift your schedule around helps a lot, but the other side of the coin shows more people becoming workaholics. Because they’re just staying at home, they feel guilty about logging-out. And without unplugging, they end up burning out and getting sick.

What can you do to help improve your employees’ mental health? Implement employee wellness programs.

You can also encourage employees to establish boundaries by taking breaks when they need to. Vacation days and paid time off are still valid at home, and are essential to recharge yourself. It also helps to have a set (and implement) a certain number of work hours for each day.

2. Organize team-building events

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we’ve collectively faced during COVID-19 is loneliness. Teleworkers miss the chance to socialize and interact with colleagues, as team dinners and hallway chats are no longer part of daily life.

  • Virtual team-building events to remind employees they’re not alone. 
  • Regular virtual coffee breaks, happy hours, game nights, or even crafting sessions to help employees bond outside of their work. 
  • When it’s a bit safer, in-person events like company parties or quarterly meetings. 

Team-building activities where people can connect and discover common interests will benefit your entire team — not just people with mental health concerns.

3. Schedule 1:1 meetings with employees

Remote workers face a lot of isolation, and that can leave them feeling confused or disconnected. They may feel forgotten or out-of-step with the rest of the team, which is very frustrating. As an article on coping with COVID-19 stress by LHH points out, we cannot overlook our need for human connection. 

  • Checking in with employees through phone calls or video chats can provide a friendly human connection that socializing as a group may not be able to offer. 
  • Managers can also take this time to learn about their employees as individuals with personal lives, instead of only focusing on accomplishments and goals.
  • If this doesn’t suit your organization, a peer-to-peer support system may help them feel more comfortable to discuss any problems they have, both within and outside the workplace.

As a case study by Mind details, these check-ins are a good opportunity to speak about mental health. Companies can use this information to put in place different resources and changes to help those employees who may be struggling. It is essential that organizations be willing to adapt to staff needs, be it by implementing mental health benefits or improving communication and feedback within teams.

Free Download: 4 Ways Companies Can Offer Mental Health Aid

4. Cultivate a supportive company culture

TechRepublic report on companies and mental health support points to the poor response of employers to employee needs. Many workers gave their companies an F in terms of supporting mental health, while managers grade the same efforts with a not-so-encouraging C. 

Based on the adoption rate of mental health benefits, awareness is low across all industries. And even if they offer tools, services, programs and coverage to deal with these challenges, genuine support is rarely baked into the culture. 

Leaders should foster a culture of open communication to decrease the stigma around mental health. You should assure remote employees that they will be listened to, and that their well-being is your top priority. In short, you need to communicate that you care.

Nailted  can help you supporting your employees mental health in many ways. Nailted helps you better understand employees through analytics, so you gain insights even while working remotely.

Nailted guides companies towards the creation of a feedback-based culture by creating safe spaces that make your people feel more comfortable to talk about how they feel. Book a demo with one of our People & Culture experts and discover how to start working on your employees mental health.