Part 1: Mental Health Awareness Week – be kind and reach out

Focus on kindness – not just to others, but also remember to be kind to yourself.

21 May 2020

Mental Health Awareness Week is a hugely important campaign every year, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s perhaps more important than ever.

This year we are focussing on being kind – so here are a few tips from us on what this might look like as we work our way through our current situation.

Small changes can make a big difference

Over the past three months working from home has been a huge focus in terms of mental health and wellbeing, and it’s perhaps fair to say that many companies and their teams are probably experiencing challenges they’ve not faced before. Many employees will be trying to juggle the competing demands of childcare and/or home schooling with new work practices, all while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Expanding on the idea of kindness, here are some of the ways that you can be kind to your colleagues right now.

Stay connected

For a friendly chat

We may not be able to physically meet with our teammates but we can stay connected to keep up some semblance of normality. Reaching out can really help those who live by themselves, and if you use video calling, you’ll also be able to actually see if your colleagues look okay – which you can’t do over the phone. Setting up virtual coffee breaks or lunches with colleagues is a great way to simply catch up and talk about life.

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For work related matters

It can be unproductive for many reasons to check up on your team too often, but a daily 10-minute video call is a great opportunity to check in – to review how they are getting though their ‘to do list’ their list and discuss any issues they may be having that may impact delivery. When we’re working from home, the lines between personal and work will inevitably become blurred, so remember to be empathetic and work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

Trust your team

One of the biggest challenges for people who aren’t used to working from home is the perception that others might not think that they are working as effectively as they used to. Don’t be that person, rather encourage your people to take regular breaks or take in some exercise so that they aren’t glued to their desk for the entire day. Regular breaks will help them to stay mentally focused, and you’ll be showing them that you trust them which will help increase their motivation.

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And where you can, give your people ‘permission’ to work the hours that suit their needs - if they log on earlier than you then understand that they might finish earlier and vice versa. Or if they need to take a couple of hours off during the day to run an errand or deal with a family matter, be okay with that as much as possible.

Spot the signs

As people deal with mental health in different ways, it’s not always easy to see when someone is struggling. Keep an eye out for any changes in their behaviour or general demeanour, such as their appearance, or if they are usually quite house proud and their home starts to look untidy - this could be a sign that something is not quite right. If you can, offer your support, and most companies have some sort of employee assistance program that you can refer them to.

Listen

We all know that someone who just doesn’t want to use video calling. You can’t force them, so how can you ‘physically’ see if they’re okay? Try asking them some general questions and listen to their responses. Perhaps they aren’t sleeping as well as they used to, or they aren’t taking the time to prepare a decent lunch or dinner anymore, resorting to food that requires no preparation time like cereal. The occasional bad night’s sleep or easy dinner is okay, but if this is occurring on a regular basis, this could also be a sign that they aren’t really coping.

If you don’t feel like your company is wanted, persevere - it’s important that they know they’re not alone, and empathy shows them they are valued. Allowing someone to talk about their feelings or problems can be more helpful than you realise.

When it comes to looking out for your team, an important aspect is getting to know them. If you’re concerned at all about someone in your team, because you do know them and have noticed a real change, then it might be time for you to reach out.

 ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind.’ Jennifer Dukes Lee

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