The health risks from Covid-19 and the new ways we are living, and working are psychological as well as physical. Although you may be very familiar with ensuring the physical health and safety of your staff, your duty of care also includes their mental health and that’s an area you may not be as familiar with.
We all react differently to stress and pressure. Many will adjust quickly, accept the situation, and find new ways to make it work for them. Some will be feeling anxious about health implications such as infection, illness, or bereavement. Others will be struggling to adjust to new working practices, getting to grips with new technology or working remotely, especially when families are cooped up at home together. Lots of people are finding the social isolation, and lack of opportunity to be with loved ones to be their biggest challenge.
The question is how can you know…really know, how your team are doing?
When you can spot the signs that colleagues may need your help, as early as possible, you are better placed to support them and hopefully prevent the situation from becoming more serious.
Although it is impossible to know what is happening in a person’s head unless they tell you, there are behavioural and physical signs you can watch out for. More specifically, it is about noticing changes in the way a person usually appears or behaves and those changes last for a period of time. For instance, over a 5-day period rather than a one-off event.
Changes in remote working individuals include:
- Extroverts becoming more introverted
- Changes in risk taking behaviour, (either taking more or bigger risks or becoming more risk averse)
- Poor quality or a lack of decision making
- More angry, irritable, or moody than usual
- Isolating or hiding away
- More accident prone
- Changes in weight
- Lack of concentration
- Poor judgement
- Increase in smoking, caffeine, or alcohol consumption
You have spotted some changes in your remote team, now what can you do?
- The first thing to consider is what you would want if you were the one that was struggling? It’s likely you would be looking for warmth, understanding and compassion. Be that person.
- Make yourself available and reach out to that person with the offer of a virtual coffee and chat, a regular one to one (with mental health and well-being always on the agenda) or a phone call. Whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
- Based on what you know of the other person and your relationship with them consider whether to start with:
A general question like “How are you coping with the current situation?”
A more specific question such as “What is it that you are finding most challenging right now?”
Or, direct feedback, along the lines of “I’ve noticed that you aren’t as chatty and outgoing as you usually are on our team calls”
- During that conversation, give your full attention (turn off notifications), make good eye contact.
Hold a loose framework in mind for the conversation, such as:
- Saying calmly and in a neutral tone what changes in behaviour you have noticed and that you want to talk about how they are coping
- Listen to what is being said and what is NOT being said
- Ask questions to clarify
- Reflect back what you are hearing (including the emotions you are picking up)
- Remind the person of their opportunities for specialised help such as their GP or an employee assistance programme
- Recap on what’s been discussed or if they are calm enough, have them summarise it
- Agree next steps together (including whether they or you will seek further support)
- Afterwards, do what you said you were going to do.
If you’d like help in increasing the mental toughness of your teams then book in a call with me on 07971 793558