While ‘Blue Monday’ is widely credited to a travel company, with the goal of selling more holidays, feeling blue after the return to work can often be a very real phenomenon – and employers can play a vital role in spotting the signs of the ‘Winter Blues’ and find ways to support them. Irene van der Werf, People Partnering Lead, Omnipresent, a global-first remote working organisation, shares useful tips for HR leaders who may be new to the challenges of managing a hybrid, multi-national workforce.
When you’re not doing well, people try in vain to separate work from their personal life – in reality, their emotional and mental state clearly impacts their work. Sometimes it’s their work that is causing that distress. It shows up in many ways.
Spotting the signs
Someone dealing with burnout may speak less in team meetings or give fewer ideas. Someone with depression may self-medicate or drink at work, or not be able to concentrate. They may simply not feel up to anything and prefer to lie in bed. Someone with anxiety may not be able to get any work done because they are in a state of panic, or think they are having a heart attack because of a panic attack.
For employers, the cost of people having mental health problems is much higher than they may think. Helping teams deal with wellbeing is not only the right thing to do but actually is also in the best interest of the business.
To help support teams, companies and managers must speak openly and create awareness about mental health.
We opened up discussions on Slack about Seasonal Affective Disorder and found that many our team members opened up to us and their managers after that because they felt they could. Keep this in mind when performance is a bit lower and help make the appropriate arrangements for them. Talking about it is the first step.
We also created a wellbeing page on our Intranet with a public statement on how we approach well-being for teams and how to reach out for help. By opening discussions, it demonstrates how this is not a taboo topic that should be hidden, but rather discussed and dealt with appropriately.
Recognise your own limitations as a manager
Since our managers are not mental health professionals, we have subscribed to a platform to access people who are: Plumm. It is an anonymous platform and helps professionals of different backgrounds by providing not only therapy sessions, but tools to help our teams find the support they need, such as coaching, articles, videos, meditation, concentration music, etc.
Overcoming remote working wellbeing challenges
As more employers move to a hybrid working environment, leaders need to find new ways to offer support.
Remote work can make it more difficult to see one another on a daily basis, requiring a little more effort in tacking wellbeing. Especially in a remote environment, you cannot see when an employee is not doing well. They need to come to you. Our job as leaders is to create an environment where people feel they can speak up.
As such, we want to make it easier for our leaders to talk about it. We’re launching a page and training on how to discuss wellbeing with employees, regularly. We have live interactive sessions about wellbeing in a remote work setting, how to deal with stress and other triggers. It helps open up the conversation, and people walk away with helpful tips. It goes beyond being something only HR professionals have to deal with.
In addition, companies need to deal with well-being by understanding the importance of ERGs. These are communities where teams can share tips and tricks, have someone to talk to, and organise things they are passionate about. This ultimately helps with engagement and helping people focus on new things they love, even if it’s outside their work.