How to Prioritize Employee Mental Health: Creating a Better Remote Experience

Last Updated May 23rd, 2022

Remote work offers your employees the flexibility and freedom to do their jobs almost anywhere. It saves time, increases productivity, cuts overhead costs, and gives you access to a larger pool of top talent. But what happens when working remotely exposes gaps in understanding and addressing mental and emotional well-being? As a leader — how can you prioritize employee mental health to create a remote work experience that’s nontoxic, engaging, positive, and healthy?


 

Remote Work and Employee Mental Health

Working remotely has significant advantages, but there are also some drawbacks. Things like isolation, poor work-life balance, a lack of community, fewer meaningful relationships, and insufficient communication can impact employee mental health. And it matters because it’s these factors that lead to burnout, higher levels of stress, poor productivity, and a lack of engagement — all of which contribute to the ongoing Great Resignation.

Mental health impacts the quality of life, relationships, productivity, and more. And the 2022 State of Workforce Mental Health emphasizes that an ever-increasing number of employees struggle with mental health. But of those surveyed, employees were substantially more likely to communicate mental health-related concerns when leadership displayed care and compassion for their mental well-being.

You see, addressing employee mental health in the workplace begins with a culture of leadership that prioritizes and guides a mental health revolution with intention.
 

What is Intentional Leadership?

Intentional leadership focuses on creating the best environment for your employees to succeed — deliberately, actively, and with incredible purpose.

Intentional leadership begs that you curate all experiences for your team with intention and care. And you do this to ensure not only the best professional outcomes, but that every person leaves feeling valued, connected, and empowered in their roles and as a person.  – BombBomb Senior Content Marketing Manager, Erica Bonser

Erica also adds that being an intentional leader requires commitment and dedication every day. And it requires all of you. People are a leader’s most important asset, and without radical intention behind your actions, you risk losing them.
 

Leading With Purpose

A New Normal

BombBomb now offers both fully remote and hybrid work experiences. And, like many companies, all levels of leadership have made changes in expectations and leadership styles to accommodate a new work environment where employees can thrive.

BombBomb CEO Conor McCluskey says that the conversation around mental health began in 2021.

A lot of our workplace culture focuses on building relationships — it’s one of our core values — and that used to be done in person. But with the shift to remote work, people could no longer do that. It was a tough transition for everyone, and we realized how important it is to focus on the mental health of our employees. – BombBomb CEO, Conor McCluskey

Intentional Action

Conor, together with other members of senior leadership and human resources, added workplace mental health resources like counseling services, flexible PTO, a Wellness Team, and “First Fridays” (the first Friday of each month off for employee self-care). They also consistently encourage teams to focus on fun (another BombBomb core value) rather than exclusively on the monotony of day-to-day work.

The Impact

It’s these mental health practices that BombBomb Vice President of Talent Management Sandra Martinez says reinforce BombBomb’s tenure, which is 65% higher than the industry average.

And because senior leadership wasn’t just bought into a conversation around mental health but spearheading mental health initiatives and taking action, there was a trickle-down effect in how other company leaders were showing up for their teams intentionally and with dedication.

Below are five ways BombBomb leaders reframed remote and hybrid work experiences to advocate for, prioritize, and encourage employee mental health.
 

5 Ways to Prioritize Remote Employee Mental Health


 

1. Connect Face to Face Each Day… With Purpose

Face-to-face communication conveys the intent, warmth, and emotion that leads to genuine connection. And in a remote environment, tools like asynchronous and synchronous video make it possible to reach more people more often, to enhance and strengthen relationships.

But this doesn’t mean scheduling meetings just for the sake of scheduling them. In The Art of Gathering: How We Meet, and Why it Matters, author and event facilitator Priya Parker highlights that the planning, the purpose, and even what these meetings are called influence how people show up. Are you creating human connection that fosters a sense of belonging and cultivates strong relationships that lead to company loyalty? Or are you running through a list of ‘to-do’ tasks your adult employees likely already understand?

In addition, it isn’t just what you call this time to connect or what’s on the agenda that matters. It’s also how you present yourself. How you show up during face-to-face interactions doesn’t just impact you — it can influence the emotional wellness of your team, too. In Episode 153 of The Customer Experience Podcast, facial coding expert Dan Hill, Ph.D., explains that our emotional state and the emotional state we demonstrate to others is incredibly contagious.
 

2. Lead With Vulnerability

Vulnerability can be intimidating. To be vulnerable means stripping away the figurative armor that feels emotionally protective but actually hinders connection and growth.

In Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Brené Brown, Ph.D., explains the importance of vulnerability in leadership. Brown highlights that the only way to build genuine relationships in the workplace is to be authentic, vulnerable, and to have meaningful and even difficult conversations with emotion, courage, and empathy.

And while it may feel uncomfortable, leading with vulnerability gives your team permission and freedom to show up as themselves. This is especially important when it comes to conversations around employee mental and emotional health.
 

3. Encourage Team Building to Promote Employee Buy-in

The customer experience your brand provides impacts growth and revenue. But according to Havard Business Review, if you want customer buy-in, your employees have to love your organization, too.

Research by Mental Health America also concludes that when people feel isolated in the workplace, this negatively impacts how they think about their job. In fact, 63% of those surveyed stated that stress caused by an isolating and hostile work environment negatively impacted both their mental and physical health.

Creating a sense of community and partnership can combat isolation and increase employee buy-in in remote working environments. It helps foster relationships, which goes a long way towards building a team that loves your brand.

Remote team building can look like:

Mentor programs
Virtual meetups such as Donut
Digital fun and events programs
Virtual fireside chats
Peer recognition programs such as Nectar
 

4. Demonstrate Respect

According to the Pew Research Center, one of the top three reasons for the Great Resignation is a feeling of disrespect. In addition, MIT Sloan Management Review highlights that disrespect is also the number one attribute of a toxic work culture that can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and other intense mental and emotional challenges.

At BombBomb, I’m not just seen for the job I do or the person I am at work. I’m seen as a whole person with a life outside of who I am here. That version of me is considered, spoken to and about, and treated kindly with flexibility and care. It makes me want to work hard and show up every day. I feel respected because I know that all of me matters. – BombBomb Client Enablement Manager Kevin Andrews

Respect and consideration are powerful leadership tools. So, what are some other ways BombBomb employees say leadership makes them feel respected?

Flexibility during times of change outside of work
Serious consideration of ideas and opinions
Creating space for everyone’s involvement in new processes
Collective decision-making
Freedom to work at the most optimal times to get the job done
Trust in professional ability without micromanagement
Open to and encouragement of employee-led innovation and problem-solving
Individual consideration through one-on-one meetings with leadership and senior leadership
Acceptance and encouragement to prioritize a healthy work-life balance
Vulnerable, honest conversations surrounding mental and emotional well-being
Encouraged use of flexible PTO, First Fridays, and respite
 

5. Offer Flexibility and Trust

It’s daunting to sit behind a computer screen for eight hours straight each day. And for many remote employees, this can be further isolating.

Some people work best in the morning, while some work better later in the day; offering accommodations that allow people the opportunity to work when and how they work best gives them the chance to be successful. – BombBomb Talent Acquisition Manager, Matt Sowin

Offering flexible work schedules, optional meeting attendance, trusting every leader to do what’s best for their team, and trusting your employees to complete their work carries significant weight in mental and emotional health. In fact, research by Mental Health America cites that work flexibility significantly reduces work-related stress.
 

Start Prioritizing Employee Mental Health Today

It isn’t your product or service that makes your company a success — it’s your employees. And in a remote working environment, how you lead with intention, advocate for, and encourage positive employee mental health directly influences your organization’s performance. If you’re looking to start building deeper emotional connection across teams in virtual and online spaces, try BombBomb free for two weeks.

For more workplace mental health resources, check out Mental Health America. And if you’re interested in joining our team — we’re hiring!

Kayte Yerga Grady | About The Author

Kayte is a writer from Chicagoland who thrives on encouraging both people and companies to present the best version of themselves through creativity. She's a sometimes runner, raising three wildling boys while trying to enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer. When forced inside, she uses any remaining creativity to dabble in very average floral design. | BS Purdue University

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