Since the start of the pandemic, people have found that the constant state of uncertainty, isolation, and overwhelm has impacted their mental health. Research has shown that there has been a 370% increase in anxiety and a 394% increase in depression among North Americans since last year.
So if you are tasked with managing a remote or hybrid team, what would you look for if you were concerned about someone? In addition to that, how would you approach them to discuss your concerns? In this piece, we want to offer up some insight into what might be an indicator that someone needs help, how to model mental wellness for your team, along with how to have difficult conversations to express your care and concern.
If someone is struggling, you might start to notice a lack of participation, difficulty with decision making, lack of focus, or trouble completing work on time. It can also show up as impatience, silence, or a flat affect. So try to stay in tune with your team in order to tell what's normal and what might be a shift.
Lead by example and create and support an empathetic work environment that encourages emotional expression. Be honest about where you are at energy-wise. It creates a safe space for others to share when you can exercise self-expression and be vulnerable. Openness builds trust and lets the team know that it is a safe space to share.
Encourage team support vs. everyone being out for themselves. Make it ok for everyone to talk about how they are feeling and coping. If some team members find they have extra energy and extra time, make it ok to help one another and share the load. Now is the time to function fully as a team and lean on each other to get the job done.
If it comes time to discuss your concerns with an individual you believe may be struggling, don't jump to assumptions about what you see. Instead, check in with that person and approach them with an open mind. Ask open-ended questions that require a bit more than a yes or no answer. Be exquisitely present and listen generously.
If your employee opens up and says something is wrong, try not to make it about you. Sometimes we share because we want to relate, but it downplays the importance of what they are going through. Also, try not to minimize it by suggesting, "don't worry. Everything will be fine. It'll pass soon. Everyone is going through it." They might not be fine and everyone's situation is unique. Recognize that.
Start hard conversations with "I". For example, "I wanted to have a conversation because I noticed you seem less engaged than usual." Let them know that this is not a performance discussion; it's an "are you ok" discussion. When they begin to open up, do not interrupt or try to solve the problem. Ask them what support system they have and if they don't have options, offer them resources provided by the company or local community.
Being an advocate for mental health and wellness with your remote teams will ultimately create a sense of emotional safety in the workplace enabling people to work through their struggles and focus more clearly on the tasks at hand.
The trust that comes from that will also boost motivation, cultivate a greater sense of dedication to the business, and increase employee engagement and retention.