We have all been getting used to the ‘new normal’ ever since the pandemic started back at the beginning of 2020. It took a while to get accustomed to working from home, and this year has unfortunately had a negative impact on workers’ mental health. However, we are now more robust and wiser – let’s start the new year the right way and ensure that employees feel accepted, supported, and thriving!
In this article, you will find some ideas on how to manage workplace mental health:
- BENEFITS AND DOWNSIDES OF REMOTE WORK
- HOW TO ENCOURAGE GOOD WORK AND LIFE BALANCE
- WELLBEING ONLINE ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE IN
- VIRTUAL TEAM BUILDING IDEAS
BENEFITS AND DOWNSIDES OF REMOTE WORK
The drastic change between a busy office and the comfort of one’s living room can be shocking to the mind and body, and this is one of the reasons for feeling down and unmotivated. We have to understand workers are superheroes for making that step under so much pressure and managing to keep still moving forward. We have compiled a few steps for you to make sure staff are feeling their best and working efficiently.
Before easing into these, we would need to clearly understand both the positive and negative sides of working from home, though. This will help when deciding which parts of it to reinforce, and which we should take care to avoid possibly.
You have to take advantage of your disadvantages. Chad E. Foster, Blind Ambition: How to Go from Victim to Visionary.
Many articles and companies might be going on about the disadvantages of working from home, but let’s not forget there are many good sides to it too! According to this 2020, State of remote work report, over 97% of surveyed workers would recommend remote working and would enjoy having it implemented into their schedule from time to time even after the pandemic. We, from KissTheFrogNOW are devoted to increasing workplace satisfaction, and one of the best ways to do so just listen to the employees themselves!
So, what do they enjoy about staying at home?
- Flexible Schedules
Over a third of workers say this is the most significant advantage when working from home. Having a more flexible job on its own allows for better work/life balance and thus increases satisfaction. We can definitely implement flexible scheduling in the office as well, so it is good to note this down as what employees definitely want and require.
- Ability to spend time with family
Another answer that 11% of surveyed employees gave is that it reinforces our previous point and shows us the right direction for positive change. Workers do not want to spend their time relaxing by themselves, but rather to spend it with their families. Let’s think about this next time we give them Holiday gifts or time off during school days – it would probably be better to be more family-oriented to suit their needs.
- Not having to commute
This is also one of the Top 3 reasons why employees enjoy working from home. According to the latest remote working statistics, employees can save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year by avoiding the commute to work. Amazing! Such knowledge can be implemented when looking for an office if you are just starting out, or including remote work from time to time if possible to save employees some cash (maybe one week per month?).
- Increased Productivity
Half of the workers surveyed by Glassdoor share their productivity isn’t affected by remote working, and it could have even increased. Such findings are often explained with the relaxed environment and colleagues’ lack of chat during the working day. Companies have also measured increased productivity amongst home workers: about 2/3 of employers have reported more efficiency of home workers than office workers (Finder.com). These numbers can switch our focus to providing a less distracting workspace and maybe one big break instead of five 10-minute ones. This would ensure that we are not interrupting the workflow constantly.
Now that we know what the Advantages are and how they can be implemented in normal circumstances let’s continue with the downsides of working from home to know what we will be up against!
- Collaboration and communication
Communication with colleagues is not the same when working at home. You cannot engage in meetings, experience others’ tone and emotion firsthand, which has a tremendous impact on work-life, both regarding the business and personal relationships between colleagues.
The lack of human interaction overall is a significant issue for remote workers. Being social is a fundamental part of everyday life that has been almost stripped away due to the pandemic and working from home. Even if one’s job is not collaboration centred, the absence of contact can be detrimental to workers’ mental wellbeing.
- Not being able to unplug
18% of people are not able to easily distinguish their at-home life from their remote work. This leads to feeling burnt out, as if they are continually working, under pressure to meet deadlines and be productive even outside working hours.
- At-home Childcare
27% of employed parents with small children experience difficulties in caring for children while working from home. This can be extremely stressful and impact efficiency, being susceptible to stress, and once again feeling burnt out.
Now that we have enough information about how remote working impacts employees, it is time to present you with some tips and tricks. These will help preserve emotional and mental health in your colleagues during the new year and aim to build positive, long-lasting, and trusting relationships amongst remote teams.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE GOOD WORK AND LIFE BALANCE
What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. Plutarch.
Create wellbeing rituals
Promoting mental health while working remotely could be difficult, as gathering everyone and engaging in healthy virtual team building activities or unwinding together cannot happen. At least not in person! And trying to do that online can have its troubles. This is why we have compiled these easily achievable daily/weekly rituals you can introduce to your team’s routine. They have all been tested and approved by our team, so don’t hesitate to give them a try too!
We might underestimate this, but starting the day with a greeting is fantastic, and it makes us more prone to sticking to a schedule. A right morning email includes a fun, colourful picture, 2-3 aims for the day and a few mentions of what your team did well yesterday. Make it short and sweet!
This idea is fantastic! We adopted it from Kursat Ozenc and transformed it to fit our needs. It’s effortless – once a week (or every day, if you find it fun and have the time) the Team Leader sets out a question in the team chat that everyone has to answer with a GIF. The questions could range from ‘What is your mood today?’ to ‘What was your last interaction with a colleague like?’, etc. This little ritual breaks the routine and allows for a bit of creativity and entertainment during the workday.
Online Coffee/Tea Breaks
When we used to be in the office, we would always chat during a break. This is still possible over platforms such as Zoom and Teams, but there seems to be a barrier when initiating communication with coworkers. You don’t know if they are busy right now if they have a good day and messaging them might feel intruding on their privacy. This is incredibly harmful, as vocal communication is entirely out of the question. We have found that if the Team Leader initiates a Video call during break time, many colleagues are eager to join and have a conversation together. This doesn’t need to be mandatory; of course, colleagues can participate if they want to.
Thus, make it a point as a manager to always start the interaction, and your teammates will get in the habit of communicating more regularly.
Set wellbeing reminders
Depending on the system you are using for remote working those can be set calendar events or just messages during the workday – just remind everyone to have a snack, fix their posture, drink water regularly, take a small break when needed. Let them know when the shift is finished and that they have to turn everything work-related off so that they can enjoy the rest of the day in peace.
Flexible scheduling can be outstanding, but it also bears a great negative side – we can often mix work with personal life. Staying at home all the time even erases the distinction you would have when going into the workplace. We cannot put our finger on it consciously, but our body needs to know where work begins and ends, and usual ques would be our location, time of day, and coworkers’ presence. Now that 2 out of those 3 indicators are absent from work life, the distinction becomes harder and leads to deteriorating mental health. How can employers reinforce work/life boundaries to avoid burnout and stress?
Reminders, reminders, reminders!
As previously mentioned, reminders can be useful. Regularly let everyone know that their shift is finished, and they have to turn off their computer, exit any work-related apps, and not read emails until the next workday. Might seem simple but reinforcing the idea that no more work needs to be done as an authority figure can exponentially calm employees down. They will be certain nothing more is expected from them, and in fact, they are not allowed to engage in work outside active hours, thus helping them relax.
Replace the Clean Desk Policy with a Decorating Competition
Numerous workplaces only allow a certain amount of décor on one’s desk (if any!), and this is one of the rules we no longer have to stick to. Moreover, creating a workspace area in one’s home helps the brain distinguish between working and being off. Make this a fun competition in your team by giving everyone a week or two to decorate and make their workspace both practical and delightful to look at. Then vote for the best one!
It can be tempting to continue working on a new project if you finish early. However, doing that is not beneficial as you’d either not finish it and still leave the rest for tomorrow disturbing your workflow, or you would have to stay after work and not relax properly. To combat this, we strongly encourage making manageable To-Do Lists at the beginning of the day and sticking to those. Depending on your work, the lists can either be done by the whole team and include individual tasks, or by everyone separately. Ensure nobody is putting in too many tasks and overworking themselves though.
Keep in touch
Don’t forget about communication! It is vital for any business and employee satisfaction. To keep up with everyone on your team successfully, here are 6 manager tips we have gathered from research and experience:
- Schedule regular check-ins with all team members
- Be aware of your tone and pitch – use emojis when typing up a message to seem more friendly if needed.
- Avoid boring text, use pictures and colour to capture attention.
- Trust staff and let them make decisions on their own.
- Learn to listen and ask the right questions.
- Have a journal with everyone’s important life events coming up – you are not Megamind, but remembering these can establish trust and loyalty.
Remember that teams work better when they are a group of friends – becoming closer and sharing should be your end goal in team communication.
Numbers can be encouraging
The common perception has always been that sharing numbers with employees will make them feel underappreciated and that statistics do not bear high importance anyways. We do not believe this and have found out that even though overall productivity has increased over the months of remote working, some workers feel more anxious than ever and might feel they are not doing enough. The lack of comparison between coworkers that comes with remote working can increase uncertainty, and even if they are in the midst of their best week ever, employees might feel they need to do more. This is why it is essential to let them know their results when you do 1to1s and confirming that what they are currently doing is sufficient.
WELLBEING ONLINE ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE IN
We have established some handy rituals and habits you can include in your remote team’s work life. How about some virtual team building activities to promote physical and mental health? We did our best to come up with exciting alternatives to boring team exercises so that colleagues can anticipate the session and not dread it approaching. Here are some of our suggestions:
This fantastic idea came from Time to Change – it is always the time to do a Secret Santa event, even if Christmas is gone. The basis of this activity is that everyone draws a colleague’s name (you can use a Secret Santa generator to do that virtual team building). Instead of a gift, coworkers have to give each other something personal to uplift one’s spirit. This could be an online album of pictures, video of your best moments, a list of all their funny catchphrases, a diagram showing what they are best at, etc. Making it free means colleagues are sharing time and effort rather than money. This not only promotes emotional wellbeing, but it strengthens interpersonal relationships within your remote team!
Illustrations sharing circle
A sharing circle is powerful not because of the mere shape of people sitting in it but also about how they communicate. So, you can definitely have a successful sharing circle online! Just follow the 2 fundamental rules: listen with Attention and speak with Intention. The core of this activity is the KissTheFrogNOW Illustrations deck – it consists of incredible illustrations by talented artists, which are highly interpretable. Draw a card for each member and have them answer an established question. It can be ‘What does this image remind you of?’ or ‘What aspect of remote work life do you associate this card with?’. The purpose of this activity is to share and care for each other.
Virtual Team Yoga
We doubt it that this activity needs too much explaining – take your yoga mats and get started! This activity is fantastic as it promotes being physically active while having fun with your teammates (two things that we haven’t had that much of a chance to do in the previous year). Moreover, yoga rarely requires any equipment, and there is no chance you will disturb your downstairs neighbours doing it, unlike with more vigorous exercises. We have mentioned this once before but having your cameras on definitely doubles the fun of doing virtual team-building yoga with your remote team.
One of the adverse effects of working from home can have on health is having to sit at the computer all day long. And even after work, we have nowhere to go so more smartphone and TV use it is. It can be detrimental to your physical health and exhilarate mood swings, depressive thoughts, etc. Try and avoid this by encouraging a bit of reading! Start your company’s book club, have a book to read every month and do a meeting at the end to discuss it (please don’t include any work-related books, the purpose of this activity is relaxation away from the screen).
Another way to do this is to have everyone read a book they enjoy and give them 5minutes each to describe it to everyone else at the meeting. Book listeners should be welcomed too! Have that bit of unplugging and share the experience with colleagues.
Crafty people are aware that making something with your hands can feel a bit quiet and lonely at times. It is the perfect opportunity to gather, have a conversation with your colleagues and witness the creative result at the end of the session!
You can send out supplies for a specific craft beforehand (adult colouring books are amazing!), you could also choose to do something simple, e.g. card making. The point is to promote interaction, boost innovation and unwind. Prepare some questions beforehand that reflect the state of your team, ask about how everyone is doing, a funny/exciting thing that happened recently, what their guilty pleasure is, etc.
VIRTUAL TEAM BUILDING IDEAS
If you can laugh together, you can work together. Robert Orben
What are some virtual team building activities your team will love? Since COVID-19 hit, many businesses have stopped all team building events from going through due to social distancing, which is, in our opinion, plain wrong. There are so many ways you could still engage and develop your remote team online! Here are some great virtual team building activities:
1.‘What would you bring to the forest?’
This is a funny, entertaining game that can unfortunately only be played once. Make it count! The rules are not explained, and players have to understand them while playing – once they get the hang of it, they cannot explain them to anyone else, which is the fun part.
How the game goes: The team leader sets the scenario that they are stranded in the woods alone and only have the chance to bring specific items to survive. The catch is that the only things you can take are starting with your name’s first letter. Toby can take some towels and Mike can bring matches to light a fire. The team leader starts stating what they’d get. Then, other members have to say what they would take – if their item begins with the letter of their first name, the TL approves. If not, the item is denied without an explanation. Everyone gets a turn until it’s back to the team leader – they say another thing they can bring and the game keeps going.
Watching everyone wonder what is going on can be priceless, and once they have finally figured it out, the feeling is so rewarding! It is played until every member on the team has figured out the rules.
2. ‘Hot seat.’
What will you answer to questions given you have no time on your hands? The answers can be hilarious, proven by many TV shows in recent years. You can have a round of hot seat with your team; all you need is the Personal Questions deck and willing contestants! Who can answer the most questions in a minute? Using KissTheFrogNOW ensures the questions are not trivia. Still, rather curious thoughts can be different for everyone, so it is just as exciting to answer and hear others’ answers. This activity promotes communication, concentration and will help your team become more close-knit in the process. It is ideal for new teams.
3. ‘Memory map.’
This team-building activity is also great for remote teams that have just been introduced or moved to work together recently, and haven’t had the chance to meet up and get to know each other because of the pandemic. All you need to do is create a collaborative map of the world and share the link. While you are in a teambuilding call, ask everyone to mark their place of birth, first kiss, school, where they met their significant other, etc. Every area marked on the map should be followed by a little story the colleague wants to share about it. It can be so exciting and bring the team closer together!
4. ‘Pet Hub.’
One thing we have figured out throughout the years is that people love to talk about theirs and others’ pets throughout the years. Thus, this activity is an excellent virtual team building ice breaker for teams which are not particularly outgoing with each other yet. Have everyone send a picture of their pet in the chat if they have one. Then, when the team building session starts, and everyone is ready to play, have each team member give their colleagues’ pet a personality based on how they look. Is Patty the fish a burglar who enjoys a bit too much of dancing in clubs? Is Caesar the dog a good guy with a family of 3 who works in marketing and goes to the gym 6 days a week to keep in shape? Probably not, but it’s fun to talk about it, and it also lets colleagues fantasise and boost their creativity.
5. ‘When I grow up.’
This is one of the games featured in KissTheFrogNOW’s TeamGames deck (there are plenty more to be played virtually)! Each participant has to show the others what they wanted to become when they grow up using only gestures and items found in the room. The last colleague to take part has to remember what everyone’s childhood dream job was and list them all. This team-building activity is particularly great for remote teams as it does not require having equipment or physically engaging with others. It is another fun and easy game to get everyone in a good mood for the rest of the day!
6. ‘The picture radio.’
How good are you truly at explaining? Well, this activity will show you it is not an easy job! One team member becomes the radio host, while the others are the painters (you will only need pens and paper). Use a random picture generator to get a picture, and the radio host has to explain how to draw the item on it. The catch is, the host cannot name whatever is on the picture and use closely related words. The instructions have to be based on either shapes or unrelated items. This is extremely fun to do because of the results, and how off they are sometimes! Take turns and let your creative genius unravel while bonding with your remote team.
7. ‘World Domination’
Gather your colleagues for a team-building session and let them know today, you guys are the leading the world! You have to take important decisions, and there are already some suggestions to be approved or declined. For this activity, the Discussions deck from KissTheFrogNOW would be perfect, as it has 30 cards with controversial topics to debate on. Draw a card and give the team 2 minutes to decide whether the suggestion is approved or rejected collectively: will you ban energy drinks? Allow for a global language? Extinguish artificial intelligence? The choice is yours.
This activity aims to facilitate communication skills and playfully train the participants to reach a common position. It is fantastic for better understanding and appreciating colleagues’ views as well.
8. ‘WFH Trash Challenge.’
The ‘Trash Challenge’ where people snap a photo of a public area like a beach or park that’s dirty, then clean it up and shoot another after the shot is fantastic! It has inspired many people to start doing a virtual trash challenge with their teams… If you’re like us, there’s only 1 place more cluttered than your desk (oops), and it is your desktop! Have your colleagues take a before and after picture of cleaning up their desktop from files they no longer need. Bonus points if they put a nice wallpaper photo to change it up a bit. Looking over the before and after pictures with the whole team will surely be fun, rewarding and will take out the chaos from remote working.
9. ‘Remote Teams Bingo.’
We can either moan about experiences working from home has brought us, or we could laugh about it over bingo! This is the template we came up with – you can, of course, come up with one of your own as well. The important part is for it to be relatable. This activity will surely be a nice end of a long and hard workday when workers just want to relax and have a nice laugh with their colleagues.
10. ‘MTV Cribs’
MTV’s Cribs was one of the most successful reality shows of the 2000s! What is so fascinating about seeing people’s homes? Well, when it comes to celebrities, part of it has to do with their massive and expensive houses, but there is also another huge factor that spikes up interest: getting to know them better. Why not have a Cribs: Your Team edition? Have colleagues do a virtual team building tour of their homes/workspace (however much they are comfortable with the showing of course). Sharing such a personal space allows for deeper interpersonal relationships and establishing trust. It also can be extremely entertaining and over-the-top if your team has a sense of humour! Give them a few questions to answer while giving the crib tour if you want to make the activity even more fun:
- What do you do and what is your name/nickname?
- Who do you share the crib with?
- Where is your workspace?
- Where do you spend most of your time?
- What’s the craziest thing that’s happened in this room?
Life has become vastly altered from what we were used to in the past. We cannot know for sure if this is for the better or worse, and frankly, this should not be a concern at this point in time as there is not much to do about it. Instead, we should focus on keeping employees in good health, both physically and mentally, and support them by adapting to this new way of work.
Interpersonal relationships in remote teams need to be nurtured now more than ever, thus putting time and resources in team-building and wellbeing activities are crucial. Hopefully, this article has helped establish virtual team building and team development is possible and, in fact, not that hard to achieve given the right efforts were put in. Having a handy facilitating box-like KissTheFrogNOW can be quite useful too, as it does the activity scouting and research for you. If you manage to get your hands on one, we can also help out with the scheduling and give you an entire Team Building Canvas that fits your group wants, needs, and size.
Never forget that with great care and leadership, a team can achieve heights an individual has never wished for in their wildest dreams.
None of us is as smart as all of us. Ken Blanchard.