In light of Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme, we thought we’d share things we do as a remote team to tackle loneliness. In case it helps in any way.
Every year in May, the Mental Health Foundation raises awareness, shares inspiring stories, and offers help and resources to those struggling with poor mental health.
Loneliness is something we all experience at one point or another. Yet, it’s one of the few things we rarely talk about openly. According to the latest figures, one in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time.
And the longer someone feels lonely, the more likely it is that their mental health will suffer (as illustrated in the Mental Health Foundation’s Loneliness Report).
A whopping 3.7 million adults in the UK confronted feelings of loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced us to stay indoors, limited social interactions and hit the economy hard.
In the wake of the pandemic, we witnessed a historic shift to remote working - a totally new experience for many. And while plenty of UK adults working from home discovered a better work-life balance, recent figures show that loneliness affects 30.9% of remote workers.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, as is the severity of someone’s feelings of loneliness. But there are practical steps that companies with remote teams can take to tackle loneliness within their teams.
How remote businesses can tackle loneliness in their teams
Create a guilt-free culture
Promote a culture of openness and transparency, one where all employees feel as though they can express themselves, to remove the stigma around mental health.
And one that allows flexibility, so employees can take time out of their day to prioritise their mental health. Actively encourage everyone to take their lunch break and go outside and get some fresh air.
Create a safe space to share opinions or concerns privately too. We use Charlie HR to send out regular wellbeing surveys, completed anonymously, to gauge employee sentiment and the areas to improve to cultivate the best culture we can.
Schedule company-wide retros
It’s important that the team know what’s going on in the business and what that means for them. Just as you would in a physical office, make time for monthly or quarterly company-wide meetings. This helps foster a sense of camaraderie and also combat feelings of loneliness.
And regular one-to-ones
As well as company-wide catch-ups, encourage the team to book regular one-to-ones with their peers. And not just stick to departments either. These informal catch-ups help bridge the gaps across departments and build connections on a more meaningful, personal level.
Organise virtual socials and team building activities
Virtual socials need not be boring! There are so many activities teams can do online to come together, have a laugh or learn something new. From classic activities like crafts, cooking and quizzes, to poetry workshops and cocktail masterclasses.
Virtual team socials are also a great way to mark special occasions in the calendar. And if your remote team operates in different countries, it’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate cultural events from all over the world.
Adopt a buddy system
Starting a new job remotely can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. One way to break the ice and build a support network for new colleagues is to launch a buddy system.
This can manifest in different ways but for new starters, having a regular point of contact to ask questions or even just talk about life in general is key.
Provide mental health support
Our study with YouGov revealed that 40% of Brits believe health and wellbeing policies are critical to workplace happiness.
A solid wellbeing programme should provide teams with what they need, not what the company thinks they need. So it’s important to get their buy-in when choosing what to go for. Allow employees the opportunity to share their thoughts whether that's via a survey, a retro, one-to-one or other means.
Physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked, but rather than just offering a free gym membership or a yoga class, consider corporate subscriptions to a mindfulness app like Headspace.
Or even a private healthcare plan; that often includes access to mental health services such as talking therapies. We’ve recently invested in this for our team.
Use comms to build connections
Slack is our primary communication tool to work and collaborate. But even there, we have dedicated channels where the team can share what they’ve been up to, discuss mutual interests and organise in-person meet-ups.
There’s even a Slack channel for group tea and coffee time. These albeit small interactions are more significant than we realise. It creates a sense of community and if someone’s having an ‘off day’, it can make all the difference.
Remote doesn’t mean ‘work alone’. And there are certainly things that companies can do to help their employees to feel less alone while working from home.
Helpful advice and mental health resources in the UK: