The employer’s guide to mental health awareness when employees work remotely

Remote work can create disconnect and may require adjustments to your daily routine.  As an employer, even if your employees are working from home, it’s important to be aware of  their mental health and well-being.

Mental health has become a hot topic in recent years, and should stay top of mind as we navigate the changing landscape.

Many organizations have been able to operate their businesses through the pandemic because their employees have been able to continue doing their jobs remotely.  As some organizations transition to more employees working remotely on a permanent basis, it will be important for employers to implement ways to stay connected, keep the lines of communication open, to help employees feel they’re well supported.

The invisible illness

For many years, discussing mental health in the workplace was taboo. Social attitudes led to a culture of silence; but recently as a society we’ve started to do a better job of shifting attitudes towards understanding and support. This has created a space for employees to feel comfortable discussing mental health openly and honestly. 

As an employer, it’s important to provide resources to your team leaders, to help ensure they’re educated and can recognize the signs of mental health issues. The Mental Health First Aid Canada (MHFA) provides a comprehensive resource library as a starting point.

If your group benefits plan includes an employee assistance program, make sure you’re sharing information on how to connect to the service provider with your plan members. Communicating with your team is even more important when you’re physically disconnected. Continue to take notice and be aware of team members who may be quietly reaching out for support. Your employees are your single most important asset and when they feel their best, they perform their best.  

Providing assistance

As a leader, it is important to set up weekly huddles to stay connected with employees, encourage employees to video conference when having meetings for some face to face time. Schedule a touch point with each team member to check in and ask if they have connected with colleagues, if they are experiencing any challenges, if there is anything they need help with, and most important, how they are feeling overall. This touch point may be the opportunity your employees might need to discuss their concerns about mental health.

Managing the challenge of mental health can be shared by both leaders and employees. Services such as People Connect offer leaders resources, information and training to help them create a psychologically safe workplace. This service also provides employees educational tools, online assessments, and access to immediate care through virtual counselling.  Training and awareness can be helpful to employees to protect and assist each other.

Employers should consider providing programs to assist employees in protecting their mental health, such as adequate coverage for mental health services in the group benefits plan.  An Accommodation Policy is also recommended to fulfil obligations under Human Rights Legislation.  

When employers raise awareness of mental health, everyone benefits. There are many things you can do to help your employees protect their mental health. Get started today and help promote positive mental health in your organization.

Kaneez Jaffer is a Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) with an advanced knowledge of human resources and organizational structure and design.