Taking care of mental health for your teams while working remotely

Nature seems to have thrown us a curveball with this pandemic. 
Organizations and employers who once considered work from home, a benefit, are pushed to change their perspective and quickly adapt to the implementation and new challenges of having everyone working from home. But this is no routine work from home scenario. These are special circumstances with the lockdown.Then adding pressing work deadlines, domestic chores, and personal commitments to the mix, gives work from home a whole new meaning. 
Remote working has many benefits, for the organization as well as the employee, including:
1# No time lost in commuting: In big cities, especially those like Mumbai and Bengaluru, travelling is a nightmare which can take up to four hours of an employee’s day. By hiring talent to work remotely, employees and companies get to save on the hours spent travelling, which can then be used for other more productive work.
2# Lower costs to the company: By hiring remote talent, you have fewer people in office, hence, doing away with the need to have large office spaces. The cost of office material, furnishing and utility bills such as electricity also reduce – a godsend for startups which are looking to utilize their funds more efficiently. 
3# Better work-life balance: By allowing your staff to work remotely/from home, you also enable them to incorporate other essential activities such as exercise, family time and time to follow hobbies/personal interests, into their work lives.
4# Less distraction: While the popular belief is that homes are distracting places to work at, especially if you have kids, offices can sometimes be even more distracting. Constant coffee breaks, chats with co-employees, and frequent meetings may lead to less productivity. On the other hand, employees who work from home often tend to work that much harder to prove themselves, do not get distracted by colleagues and take shorter breaks.
5# Better rates of retention: By having options of flexible hours, better work-life balance, employees are more likely to stay on with their current jobs and hence lower the rates of attrition. 
6# Access to talent: By hiring remote talent, you have access to a talent pool that is available outside the traditional workforce such as, qualified women looking for flexible opportunities, part-time or gig workforce and freelancers. This can be very budget friendly and can have many benefits for the organization. Remote hiring also overrides geographical limitations so you have the advantage to hire the best talent available. 
But there is another side to it. What are the challenges of remote working?
Isolation: The pandemic has forced us to isolate socially. As social animals, we need some in-person connections and conversations. Being away from work and colleagues had added to the feeling of loneliness. It is a big risk for employers not to maintain the emotional well being of their teams. 
Burnout: The demarcation between work and home is blurring for a lot of people. Remote workers almost always end up working beyond the stipulated hours possibly because there is no real reset button. If they were in a traditional brick and mortar set-up, then at the end of the day, they can switch off and leave. But a remote worker can continue and often tends to do so. Or they want to show more results to their managers to justify working from home. 
Mental fatigue: Managing different things - office work and domestic chores and toggling between the two, can be challenging, especially during these trying times; leaving no room for unwinding or relaxation. Constant stress over prolonged periods of time can have a compounded ill effect on mental health and emotional well-being. Stress and mental fatigue can also contribute to many physical ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes and even obesity. 
With new work challenges of remote working, balancing home and kids, and the anxiety of the pandemic itself, mental health could be the number one thing that is being affected during this pandemic. 
What can you, as an organization, do to ensure the wellbeing of your employees?
Leaders have a critical role in shaping and maintaining the psychological wellbeing of their teams. 
Here are some of the things they can do:
Accept and model vulnerability: Apart from allowing time off when someone is physically unwell, allow time off when someone is not feeling up for it. Not restricting wellness to only physical aspects shows your team that you really value their emotional and mental health. 
Make well-being actionable: Encourage your team to work on an actionable well-being plan. This could include triggers that stress them, what calms them down, and when they think they are most productive. Work with them to align and accommodate these choices and preferences. Let them know they can reach out to you for help or support. 
Set ‘off the grid’ times: As mentioned earlier, remote workers tend to be available round the clock and overcommitting. Set some time to ask your teams to switch off and completely disconnect. 
Indulge in informal banter: One of the biggest drawbacks of remote working is the lack of water cooler banter. Set up informal meetings virtually to just have tea, share ideas, and just chat. 
Create individual support plans: Some of your team members might need more support than others - ex: single parents living alone with no family support, team members with elderly or young children to care for, or team members in geographical locations with connectivity issues. Identify them and support them in the way they need it. 
Dispel the taboo around mental health: Have candid and casual conversations about mental health. Ask your HR team to be involved, if needed. Let your team know that it is okay to talk and discuss this topic. 
What can you, as an individual, do to ensure your own mental wellbeing and support others in your team?
Leaders might set the tone and model the values but it is the people that make up an organization and its culture. 
Here are some things you can do to treat yourself and your colleagues better and take larger responsibility in shaping the culture of your organization:
Make time to connect: To make up for the loss of face-to-face interactions, schedule time to connect virtually with one or two team members to talk about off-work things. It will help you build rapport and create a sense of belonging.
Be mindful: When talking to colleagues, notice and pick up clues that could indicate their mental state. If you are concerned, start a conversation and offer support. Showing empathy goes a long way in building strong bonds.
Suspend judgement: All of us are going through really trying times. While some can handle it better than you, some can’t. Don’t be quick to jump to conclusions. Offer an open mind and listen actively. 
Me -time: You cannot help anyone if you are not in a good place. Be kind to yourself and make your own mental health a priority. 
While we are hoping that this is the only pandemic we will all see in this lifetime, many organizations are considering making remote working the new norm. Understanding the challenges of it and coping with the stress in a healthy way can make you and your teams stronger. While organizations are shouldering the responsibility of smooth transitions, we, as individuals also have an equal role to play. Let us work towards not making a mental health crisis the next pandemic. 
FlexiBees has provided companies, both startups and established players, with part-time talent for many projects and roles; across a variety of functions & skill-sets like  Inside Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Digital Marketing, Public Relations, Investment Banking, Technology, Content Development, Writing, Graphic Design, etc. All these companies have benefited by being able to hire high quality talent at pricing optimised only for the hours of work they need.  With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to businesses trying new approaches, strategies, MVPs, etc, part-time and project-based talent, that are high-quality and affordable, can help. 
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