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How to support staff working from home

By Natalie Rogers, HR Director for Unum UK

Now more than ever, it’s vital that employers are tuned in to how their employees are feeling whether they are working remotely or have returned to the office. Symptoms of stress can appear physically, behaviourally or cognitively via a noticeable dip in performance and productivity, but it can be hard to identify the signs, particularly from a distance. The shift from working collaboratively in face-to-face teams to working in virtual teams must be handled as sensitively as possible. This is a very stressful period for everyone and can leave many feeling mentally vulnerable. Taking the time to listen to individual’s feedback about ways of working day-to-day will not only ensure your team stays productive and avoid feelings of burnout, but they’re positive too.”

  1. Connect with individual members

Employers will better recognise signs of stress, burnout or a lack of engagement early by getting to know each team member individually, as you can spot when there is a change. When you see each other pretty much every day, a change in people’s appearance or moods are more obvious. When working remotely, be aware of how they speak on the phone, the tone of their emails and keep an eye on performance. And where appropriate, use video tools for meetings to help feel more connected with your team and watch for any warning signs.

  1. Take a break

With many UK employees working remotely, it’s easy to overlook the value in taking regular breaks. Employers should be encouraging their teams to book out slots in their diaries and step away from their desks for short periods of time throughout the day. Staying safe while observing some sort of daily exercise is important for physical and mental health.

What’s more, working remotely for long periods of time can lend itself to bad working habits. For example, late-night emails can make employees feel pressured and can be a trigger for workplace stress and lead to severe burnout or dejection. Leading by example is the best way to promote healthy work/life balance.

  1. Show them the way

While GPs are generally very supportive of mental health issues, in the current climate employees with mental ill health, burnout or severe stress symptoms can face a lack of appointment times or resource. Employers can help by pointing staff to professional mental health support where they can and where it’s needed. There are a range of options out there offering varied levels of holistic, preventative and early indication support. Depending on the service, things like access to remote GPs and virtual mental health support consultations can be invaluable to employees during and after periods of remote working.