How to Promote Psychological Health in Remote Teams

Jennifer Kelly

psychological safety, psychological health, mental health, anxiety, depression, workplace mental health, workplace culture

We commit our time, energy, and talent to our workplaces. Therefore, work should be safe – both physically and psychologically.

Remote work has presented new challenges to ensuring workplace psychological health. In-person connections and socializing by the “water cooler” now seem like luxuries. More than ever before, workplaces need to ensure remote teams have adequate psychological and social support. This means leaders should respond appropriately to psychological health concerns and ensure employees have access to psychological health supports. Moreover, it means creating opportunities for remote teams to connect in meaningful ways.

Here are three strategies for promoting the psychological health of remote teams:

Create connection touchstones.

Social connection is vital to remote team members who may be experiencing a psychological health concern. Connection touchstones are focused on connecting team members in meaningful ways that support psychological health.

Connection touchstones differ from obligatory workplace initiatives like a virtual Friday happy hour. They are about social opportunities where people share and meaningfully connect as people.

More than ever before, workplaces need to ensure remote teams have adequate psychological and social support.

For example, your workplace could arrange a monthly photo contest where remote team members take and post (to a shared online chat) a unique picture that symbolizes a particular theme. Each month, a different team member chooses the theme. Hosting an inspiring video night is another example. One remote team member can select an inspiring video or TEDx Talk, which everyone watches separately. The team then gets together virtually to debrief the video and share what they learned or enjoyed most.

Communicate what your touchstones will be and when and how they will happen so everyone is aware and feels encouraged.

Schedule recharge breaks

How many hours do you spend sitting at a desk every day? Do you only get up to grab a snack or coffee? Be the kind of workplace that promotes and supports recharging breaks instead of just coffee breaks.

Encourage breaks that help remote teams recharge emotionally and physically. Also give breaks some importance, such as pairing each workday with a particular break suggestion.

Examples of Emotional Recharging Breaks

  • Know an employee that is regularly practicing healthy habits like yoga or mediation? Invite them to create a best practice or exercise to share with all employees.
  • Offer breathing-based mediations that add an emotional well-being component, such as reciting a positive affirmation.
  • Using a virtual collaboration tool, create a space where people can note what they are grateful for in regard to someone or something in their workplace.

Examples of Physical Recharging Breaks

  • Have remote team members set up Skype or Zoom on their phones and do a virtual 5-minute walk and chat. This can be a quick turn around everyone’s block. If a remote team member has a mobility challenge, invite them to take a few steps around their living room.
  • Search for chair yoga poses and encourage team members to complete them at a particular time each day and set an alarm as a reminder.
  • Encourage everyone to step outside or stick their head outdoors for five minutes each hour of the workday.
  • Regularly check-in.

People are not always comfortable discussing psychological health concerns in the workplace, particularly when its operations have moved online. As a result, staff may feel less inclined addressing these concerns with colleagues or leaders.

Creating a psychologically safe workplace is about pledging and following through on a commitment to psychological health and safety.

By offering an anonymous employee survey, your workplace can ask targeted questions to assess organizational and individual stress and anxiety levels. A survey can be created and issued anonymously using an online survey tool.

Frame your survey as a caring check-in, and circulate it every three-six months. Ensure you or someone in a defined role has the time and resources to analyze the responses and create an action plan to address any consistent patterns or concerns noted.

 

Remember, creating a psychologically safe workplace is about pledging and following through on a commitment to psychological health and safety. Be open and flexible to the different strategies available, and be transparent about your workplace’s intention to support psychological health.

Interested in learning more strategies to help you boost the psychological health of your workplace? Attend our Psychological Safety in the Workplace live virtual workshop, or arrange for a virtual private training for your team.


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Author: Jennifer Kelly
Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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