Talking about mental health isn’t always easy. And when these conversations need to happen remotely, this can get even more tricky to navigate. As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and we’re continuing to face isolation and uncertainty, more than half of adults and over two-thirds of young people have said that their mental health declined between early April to mid-May and many others have been affected since.
When it comes to supporting your employees during periods where they’re struggling with their mental health, it can be difficult to have these conversations online – but not impossible. We take a look at how you can start the conversation with your employees when working from home.
Ask how they’re doing
We’re not just talking about a quick ‘how’s it going?’ either. To really connect with someone, you need to ask how they are and mean it. Don’t be afraid to ask twice. Most people are hardwired to say they’re fine but if you can see someone is struggling, asking again is much more likely to yield a response. Do this with tact, approaching tricky subjects is likely best handled in 1-1 video calls rather than in team scenarios.
Make it an open forum
For your colleagues to communicate with you, you first need to earn their trust and let them know that this is a safe environment. You might do this by sharing valuable resources via email, opening up the conversation in a group video call or creating an internal campaign around mental health.
Give them your time
Make sure that you initiate a conversation when you can spare some time. If you need to log off in a few minutes to attend an appointment or have another meeting booked in, it’s unlikely that you will be able to give the conversation the time and attention it deserves. If you unexpectedly need to leave, ask them if they want to catch up later.
Find their preferred method of communication
Sometimes people find it easier to express their true feelings via email or text so don’t be afraid to reach out through these mediums if you feel it would be more effective.
Share your own experiences
Everyone has their own story to tell and once you start to open up, it can encourage others to do the same. That’s not to say you need to suddenly spill your deepest secrets or talk about anything you feel uncomfortable with, it’s simply about creating an atmosphere of openness and honesty. One of the main reasons why people don’t talk about mental health is because they’re afraid of other’s responses. Once you’ve taken away this worry, they will hopefully feel more comfortable to speak up.
Know when to retreat
If it’s clear that someone isn’t ready to talk, don’t push it. This may only serve to make them more withdrawn and won’t help with building a relationship of trust and respect. If you’re met with closed responses, let them know you are there to talk when they’re ready.