Pretty much all of us have seen firsthand the economic effects of covid, not to mention the impact on the nation's health. But what about our mental health? The psychological impact of coronavirus and all that comes with it can be incredibly damaging, from having to social distance to needing to work from home.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently published a report on Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During the COVID-19 Outbreak, which discusses all the ways isolation can affect someone’s mental health, such as increased stress, anxiety, agitation and even anger. So it’s no wonder that remote working is impacting our mental health and ability to work as productively as possible. 

As an employer, there are a number of ways in which you can support your staff with their mental health, even if you’re all working remotely. We’ve outlined five things to try below!

1. Keep an Open Line of Communication 

It can be easy to forget that you’re all part of the same company, with the same goals, when you’re all working from separate locations. That’s why it’s so important to keep in regular contact with your colleagues, whether it’s through phone, email, live chat or video calls. We’ve had to embrace this new technology when it comes to speaking with loved ones, so why not use it for work too?

It’s also essential that as a manager, you’re approachable. If any of your team members have concerns about working from home, or any other issues, they need to feel comfortable speaking to you about such matters. This is a trait that doesn’t just apply to the current working conditions we’re faced with either - being an approachable person and having open conversations about issues can build loyalty and trust between you and your team.

Do bear in mind though that sometimes it’s less about what people are saying, and more what they aren’t voicing. If someone is less vocal than usual about their daily responsibilities or if you just haven't heard from a staff member in a while, it may be a good idea to check in with them for an update on their wellbeing.

2. Virtual Social Time

It’s not just about work. Even when people are at their place of employment, there is always some sort of social element going on in the background! If you’ve been working remotely during lockdown, you’ll certainly appreciate how much a difference it makes not to be surrounded by colleagues, even if you didn’t speak with them too much in the office. 

As a team leader, it can be beneficial to use the technology you have available to make some element of the working week a social event. This could be something as simple as a virtual coffee meeting, or you could try and host a bigger event, like a team game night. There are loads of free board game websites, or perhaps attempt a quiz or online escape room!

You’ve also got to consider how people are going to manage when they return to the office. If you start online social activities now, it may be less awkward speaking with your colleagues in person when the time comes. 

3. Allow Flexibility

Until the global pandemic, flexibility in the workplace often meant working from home! Businesses now have to be even more flexible, as although working remotely won’t always mean a huge shift in job function, you will need to be mindful of other changes.

For instance, many parents have been homeschooling their children, so may need to work fewer or changeable hours. Others may simply find remote working more draining, so may request more time off or reduced hours each week. 

4. Change it Up

If you’re working from home, especially if your work set up is not in a closed off space such as an office, the days can merge into one. It can be hard to separate your work from your leisure time. 

Hopefully your employees will be finding ways to overcome this issue, but you can also try and change up the tasks you delegate. Perhaps now is the time to start a new project, and get as many people involved as possible, so that they have something new to focus on.

5. Set Alternative Goals

A big part of maintaining mental health is doing activities you enjoy, particularly things like exercise. Sometimes it’s good to do something that requires little thought, and is almost like meditation. As with mixing up their routine, there’s a good chance your employees have found ways to destress themselves, but this doesn't mean you can’t offer support too!

Promoting a healthy work-life balance is something you should be aiming for anyway, so during these challenging times, you can go one step further. Rather than just setting work related goals, try to also encourage wellbeing activities by setting certain targets to hit, or offering incentives.

Overall, it’s important to be more aware of your staff mental health, and do what you can to support them, throughout covid and moving into the future.