Supporting Employee Mental Health in a Virtual Environment

The rise of remote work has brought numerous new challenges, particularly concerning
employees’ mental health. 
Isolation can create a sense of disconnection from colleagues and the organisation, potentially leading to feelings of loneliness and stress. Additionally, a virtual work environment can increase stress levels, as the boundaries between work and personal life can blur, creating pressure to always be available and dedicated to work.
To support employees’ mental health, it is crucial to understand the specific challenges that
remote workers face. This involves solutions that help alleviate feelings of isolation,
promote positive team dynamics in a virtual setting, encourage work-life balance, and utilise
technology to support mental health. 
Recent studies* have identified several recommendations and measures that organisations can implement to ensure the well-being of their remote workers.

Consistent communication

The first key principle is consistent communication. Remote work can make employees feel
alienated from the organisation, so it’s essential to establish communication channels that
allow the organisation and employees to exchange information and communicate openly
and understandably. These channels should enable two-way communication, where both
employees and managers can interact, ask questions, and receive answers. 
For example, these may include video conferencing platforms, social media applications, intranet sites, or other electronic communication tools that clearly share and receive information.

Support productivity and engagement

Secondly, it is essential to support employee productivity and engagement. While remote
work can increase individual productivity, it can simultaneously reduce team efficiency.
Therefore, managers must understand and accept possible declines in productivity and provide structured mechanisms that promote teamwork and knowledge sharing. 
Additionally, peer support can manifest in informal workplace interactions, indicating that remote workers may need time or activities that support informal, non-work-related communication with colleagues.

Managing work-life balance paradox

Thirdly, managing the paradox of remote work and personal life balance is crucial. Remote
work can offer flexibility, but it can also extend work hours and blur the boundaries
between work and personal life. 
Therefore, organisations must allow employees to adjust their work schedules according to personal obligations and encourage them to take regular breaks. Remote workers may need help setting boundaries to ensure a balance between work and personal life.

Keep strategic goals in sight

Organisations should not lose sight of their strategic goals. For various reasons,
managers’ attention may be diverted, but it is essential to continue progressing towards
significant strategic goals and utilise remote work opportunities to achieve these objectives.
It is important to clearly communicate the organisation’s higher purpose. 
Why do we do what we do, and why is it important?
Unfortunately, many employees go about their daily work without a clear understanding of why their work is important. Leaders and managers must communicate the organisation’s purpose, especially when guiding remote workers who may find it challenging to embrace it.

Care for their Health

Remote workers also need support regarding their physical health, such as prolonged sitting and lack of movement can lead to health problems.
Therefore, it is important to provide resources
and guidelines that help employees maintain an active lifestyle and create an ergonomically
suitable work environment at home. In addition to physical health, it is crucial to focus on employees’ mental well-being.
Supporting mental health involves strategies and resources that help employees cope with
the stress, anxiety, and emotional burdens that remote work may bring. It is important to
encourage open discussions about mental health topics and provide employees with
knowledge and skills related to self-care and stress management. 
Additionally, organisations may consider increasing mental health awareness through training and resources and creating support systems that allow employees to find quick help and support before mental strain takes over or burnout occurs. All these measures help create a healthier and
a more supportive work environment where employees can successfully cope with both physical and mental challenges.
In conclusion, remote work has become an integral part of the modern work environment, requiring new approaches and strategies to support employees’ mental health. 
Only in this way can we ensure that remote work is sustainable and that employees’ well-being and productivity remain high. Conducting studies within your organisation specifically allows for
a better understanding of the challenges faced by the company’s remote workers and
finding effective solutions to address these problems. It is worth investigating how employees feel and what they need to perform at their best and feel good at the same time.
his piece was written by Siffi Psychologist and Mental Health Team Member, Anastassia Murašina
George, T. J., Atwater, L. E., Maneethai, D., & Madera, J. M. (2022). Supporting the
productivity and wellbeing of remote workers: Lessons from COVID-19. Organizational
Dynamics, 51(2), 100869.
Sull, D., Sull, C., & Bersin, J. (2020). Five