Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 14, 2022

How To Support Mental Health in a Remote World


Mental health issues are on the rise and not just in the remote work world. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians will develop a mental illness in their lifetime. In response to this, many businesses have taken it upon themselves to create policies and programs that support mental health.

These efforts are fantastic and necessary, but how do we go one step further? How do we make remote work as an ecosystem more conducive to mental health?

Reducing stressors like isolation, long hours, little support, and lack of meaning can be done at many levels: company culture and values; management philosophy; hiring practices; office design; policies and programs; education or training – even through games like Minecraft!

This blog goes over each of these topics with a focus on remote work as its own unique ecosystem.

Company Culture and Values

The foundation of all remote work programs is the company culture and values, which demonstrates to employees that the company cares about more than just getting work done.

Remote work can create a lot of isolation, so putting pressure on oneself to “be productive” can add to stress, whereas a company culture that values collaboration, breaks, and self-care can ease stress.

One way to create a remote work environment that supports mental health is to require virtual communication over face-to-face communication. Many businesses require face-to-face communication and collaboration, which can be stressful and create feelings of isolation on the virtual side.

“It’s not just enough to have the technical capability to be virtual, you really need to think about the culture that you want to create and how you want to represent your company values virtually,” says Ryan Azimi, Director of International Development from ETIAS.

Another way to support mental health is to communicate company values and expectations with written policies.

This can help in two ways: first, it creates an outline for behaviors, which can help when conflict does arise; second, policies and guidelines can help create a psychological contract with employees about what to expect from them and what they can expect from the company.

Management Philosophy

Another way to support mental health in a remote work ecosystem is the way management is done. Is management done through open dialogue and collaboration? Or is it done through a more top-down, hierarchical model?

Remote work creates a new challenge of managing people and work that is not face-to-face. A good way to ease this difficulty is to promote a bottom-up management philosophy.

Managers who have a more open dialogue with their teams may be more supportive and understanding of work/life balance issues, such as people needing to leave work early for a doctor’s appointment or to pick up their children from school.

And managers who have a more open dialogue with their team may also be more open to ideas and suggestions from their team on, for example, easing workloads or creating new processes.

Hiring Practices

Hiring practices can have a significant impact on the mental health of a company. The hiring process can be hard work for both the company and the candidate for different reasons.

A good hiring process ensures that a company is hiring the right person for the right job, and it helps a company understand what it takes to work at the company and what the company values are.

When hiring for remote work, a key question is how the person works and what kind of communication they use. For example, do they use email or do they use something like Slack?

Email is not always the best communication tool, but it’s almost a necessity in many companies. What other tools do they use? Tools like Slack, Zoom, and Zoom Rooms can make remote work much easier by facilitating visual communication.

“It’s important to understand how a candidate works and what tools they use to communicate because that can be make-or-break for a remote worker,” says Ray Leon, CEO from Pet Insurance Review.

Office Design

The office is often the place where people go to escape their homes. But for remote workers, the home is the office. This can be good or bad, depending on the design of the home office.

An effective home office is one that is comfortable, has enough light, and is distraction-free. The best home offices are designed to minimize distractions and maximize comfort.

“The number one thing that people forget about when they’re working from home is that they need to have a comfortable place to work,” says Alexandra Fennell, Co-Founder from Attn:Grace.

Working from home can be great, but it’s important to make sure that your home office is set up in a way that supports your mental health.

Set up your desk in a way that is comfortable for you and make sure you have enough light.

Policies and Programs

Policies and programs are another way to reduce stress in a remote work ecosystem. Policies and programs can help support work/life balance, mental health, and health and wellness. For example, many remote work companies offer flexible hours so people can work during times that are best for their lives.

Remote work policies are often focused on the idea of “work when you want, where you want, and how you want.” But the “how” of how you want to work can make a big difference in mental health.

So a good way to support mental health and work/life balance is to have specific times that are set for “office hours” and other times for when people can work at their own convenience.

Education/Training

The training and education of employees is another way to support mental health. A company can offer internal training on topics like mental health, communication, team building, and productivity.

Or it could offer training on tools that support mental health, like tools for visualization or mindfulness. There are many online courses for specific topics like goal setting, time management, and productivity.

There are also more general classes like the ones offered by Coursera that can give a good overview of topics and concepts related to mental health.

“Mental health is something that should be talked about more openly, and I think training and education can help with that,” says Matt Miller, Founder and CEO from Embroker.

Conclusion

The remote work ecosystem is an ecosystem that can support mental health. However, each part of the ecosystem needs to be cultivated and tended to ensure mental health is supported.

Company culture and values, management philosophy, hiring practices, office design, policies and programs, education and training can make the remote work ecosystem thrive. By supporting mental health in this ecosystem, remote work becomes a more positive and effective experience for everyone.









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