We recently caught up with Dr Diane Harner, the Managing Director of CleverMinds Consulting and published neuroscientist, on how we respond to stress. Now more than ever it’s important to look after our mental health and assist your team with managing stressful circumstances. Check out the Q and A below for some handy tips on how to manage working remotely and how to improve your mental health.
1. How can we encourage a healthy routine for our employees?
One of the easiest ways to encourage a routine for your team is to introduce a short meeting at the beginning of the day to help your team set their agenda. It provides some useful human contact and also gives a sign of when your team should be looking to tackle their workload. Encourage your team to also block out a designated lunchtime in the middle of their day, a well rested and nourished brain is a brain that is more likely to work harder throughout the afternoon.
2. How can I introduce social aspects into remote working?
Start with adding an extra few minutes after a meeting to have a quick chat with your colleagues to see what’s happening in their lives. Schedule a morning tea once a week where people from across your business can join and have a quick yarn. If you have a messaging system, maybe you could start a channel where you post pictures of pets or share Netflix recommendations.
Isolation can become a real threat when you’re working from home, having interactions with your team members is so important to retaining wellbeing, but can also give you a heads up to see how your team is tracking. Remember, if someone who is more extraverted is suddenly quiet and unresponsive, or if an introverted person is now looking for excuses to talk, these may be a sign that they are struggling.
3. I’ve noticed that a few of my team members are working into the late hours of the night, will this have a negative impact on their performance and their mental health?
Sleep is one of the building blocks to having positive mental health along with diet and exercise. To be active and functional, our brains need 8 hours of sleep every night to consolidate memories and get rid of useless information and to assist with REM sleep in the early morning, we need to experience that rejuvenating sleep that happens before midnight.
If your team members are working well beyond their expected hours to the extent where it is severely affecting their sleeping pattern, there is no question that this would be impacting their wellbeing.
When working from home for extended amounts of time, it can be easy to lose track of your routine and slip into unhealthy habits. It’s important that you set clear boundaries with your team members and are explicit with your expectations. In the webinar, we discussed the need for clarity in communication and being detailed in delegating work. Consideration must be given to your team’s capacity, skills and resources that they have available. Chances are, if your team member is working well into the nights, they are either trying to decipher instructions or are lacking in one of the three areas above. Take time to have a one-on-one with your employees who are working late and work with them on the issues they are facing.
4. Should I encourage physical activity for remote workers?
Absolutely and without question. Exercise is just as important as keeping a good diet and a regular sleeping pattern to maintain good mental health. Sitting too long at a desk is not good for anyone, it’s great to promote regular intervals of activity every hour, whether it be grabbing a cup of coffee or perhaps getting up to do some stretches. When we are in an office, we are moving around, talking to coworkers and traveling between meeting rooms, it’s important that we are still getting these brief moments of activity where possible.
5. What tools can I use to assist me in managing my team’s mental health?
Nothing is going to replace a one on one conversation with your team members. However, if you want to be prepared for your catch ups, it’s best to preface them with a check-in and wellbeing survey. This serves as an agenda setting tool and allows you to understand where your team members are so that you can direct the conversation accordingly. If you would like to try out this method for free, check out the intelliHR COVID-19 Essentials platform. Click here for more info.
6. Mindfulness is something I’ve been practicing/focusing on during this time. I find it easier to be mindful and have perspective when I’m feeling good. Sometimes, on a bad day, these practices seem a lot harder to do and in fact sometimes make me feel more negative – do you have any other suggestions which can help?
It’s fantastic that you’re taking the time to practice mindfulness. If you’ve been using an app or a guided exercise and you’re struggling to focus, your brain might be distracted with stresses from work or the news.
In these instances, try to do one sole task. In the webinar today we talked about “just cutting the carrots” and this absolutely applies here. It can be difficult to practice mindfulness when your mind is distracted, so sometimes it’s best to focus on the physical rather than the mental. If you’re struggling to focus and you’re having a bad day, take pleasure in completing a small task such as making a cup of tea. Concentrate on the sound the kettle makes when it boils, the smell of the tea, feel the warmth of the cup in your hand and acknowledge a job well done. Focus hard on your senses and what you’re feeling on a sensory level rather than an emotional level. This doesn’t have to be a cup of tea, it could be making a nice meal, playing the piano, petting your dog or anything that lets you meditate on your sensory experience.
7. While I love using food as a reward for work it is becoming a bit of a problem now that I am working from home. How else can I reward myself?
A fantastic way to give yourself a reward would be to take a quick break from what you’re doing and disconnect from your work. If you’ve just completed a big task, instead of heading for the pantry, perhaps you could go for a quick walk around the block, giving yourself some much needed movement and fresh air. Perhaps it would be a good idea to exercise a different part of your brain, if you’ve been working hard on some spreadsheet, maybe you could spend some time with the creative side of your brain. This could include picking up a guitar and having a strum, perhaps a quick sketch in a notebook or some cross stitch! Whatever your creative outlet may be, it’s important to break up the monotony and give yourself a much deserved break.
We hope you found this Q and A insightful, keep an eye on our blog for our event wrap up! Last week we had a webinar on the workplace post coronavirus, check out our Q and A from that session here. intelliHR will be back after the Easter break with another webinar that we can’t wait to tell you about. See you there!