David opens with an important stat: Forget 1 in 4. Every one of us will struggle with our mental health at some time. We don’t have to be diagnosed to have mental health issues. We all have mental health, thus will suffer issues the same as with our physical health.
It’s interesting then, that images of mental health are so negative in comparison with those of physical health. When thinking of the latter, David imagines footballers or bodybuilders, whereas anxiety-inducing imagery is used with the former.
The current situation shines a spotlight on mental health and encourages us to have open conversations, eradicating the stigma. It’s also given us the opportunity to complete mental health-boosting activities such as walking and taking ‘me time’. We need to promise ourselves that we will carry on these positive by-products long after the pandemic is over.
When it comes to managing the wellbeing of our teams - particularly those who are working remotely - how do we spot signs they may be suffering from poor mental health? The age old advice of look out if they’re eating properly and washing isn’t necessarily relevant in all cases. Instead, watch out for any changes in normal behaviour.
David’s key takeaway and advice throughout this session is to say something - if someone was walking round the house limping, you’d ask them. Yet we struggle to talk about mental health.
How to put remote workers’ mental health first
The session outlined key tips in helping remote staff maintain good health and resilience, including:
- Ask employees how they are and listen non-judgmentally
- Ensure the tone of any comms is empathetic and displays trust
- Think about the language used when asking about wellbeing - ask them regularly for a mental health score out of 10, as people are more comfortable sharing numbers than feelings. This gives an opportunity to open up wellbeing convos.
- Try and speak every day - and not always about work.
How to have a conversation around mental health
It’s easy to put off a difficult conversation for fear of it being awkward, but David advises that we must say something. Here are his tips for approaching these discussions:
- Thank them and listen without judging
- Show support and sensitively check whether work is a factor
- Advise talking to a health professional
- Thank them again and agree when you’ll next check in
- Take private notes for yourself of the conversation and disclose as appropriate