How to maintain mental health when working in isolation

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Health Assured team

16 April 2021

With the rise in working from home, both because of the coronavirus pandemic and the internet allowing easier remote working, it becomes more important to think about its effects on your employee’s health and safety.

Even when working remotely, you are responsible for your people’s health and safety. This includes their physical safety and mental wellbeing.

While it's hard to remove physical risk factors from their home, one of the main issues you can address is the effects of social isolation on mental health.

Isolation and mental health issues for your employees can be a huge drain on morale and productivity, so follow our tips to support your employee’s mental wellbeing whilst working remotely.

Coronavirus, workplace isolation and mental health

Our working lives have been changing for a while now – but the emergence of coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive change, more uncertainty, and new challenges for many of us. 

By being at home more, there is a threat to physical wellbeing. Employees may be far too sedentary, rarely leaving the home, not to mention the health risks of catching the virus. However, a pandemic isn’t just a physical health issue; it’s a mental health issue as well.

Many of us have worked remotely much more over the pandemic. Jobs are also becoming increasingly more remote with the rise of laptops and the internet. So the effects of social isolation and mental health in the UK are becoming more apparent.

Whether you’re an employer or a line manager, there are lots you can do to improve life for others who are suddenly working remotely.

Working from home, social isolation and depression

Studies point to evidence linking social isolation with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.

One of the main issues with working from home is depression and feelings of isolation, as there is a lack of social interaction.

Loneliness can lead to long-term fight-or-flight stress signalling, which negatively affects immune system functioning. Simply put, people who feel lonely have less immunity and more inflammation than people who don’t. This leads to:

  • An employee becoming ill from a reduced immune system,
  • Expressing burnt out far quicker because of the strain stress puts on the body or
  • Not being able to concentrate at work because of an overload of stress hormones

Similar to feelings of loneliness, the isolation and lack of structure can lead to stress, which contributes as well. Stress will affect employees differently, many employees will experience reduced stress working from home, so you need to take this on a case-by-case basis.

For example, helping employees with structure will avoid them overworking and experiencing stress. One of the common pitfalls is that

How to support employees mentally

You may feel powerless with an employee’s routine when working from home. However, you can encourage employees to practise positive routines in their workday.

If you trust your employees and support them rather than monitor them, their engagement will increase and workplace morale will soar.

Here are some ways you can support your employees.

Share reputable resources

Sharing resources on how to support yourself mentally, providing active support and investing in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) are great ways to support employee wellbeing.

Our EAP and wellbeing app have several resources relating to wellness, mindfulness and mental health.These give guidance to your employees on how they can better maintain their mental health at home.

Talk to your people

The best way to tackle feels of isolation is through social interaction. So setting up calls with staff or getting line managers to have daily calls with their team helps keep people motivated.

While you may think this is a great way to check up on employees and monitor them, treat this as a time to catch up with them informally rather than see what their work flow is like.

Not only should you have group chats, but ensure you have some 1-2-1 time with employees, or at least ensure line managers do.

Our EAP help with communication as there is a 24/7 line for employees to call and talk to a qualified counsellor. This is a great impartial source an employee can turn to.

Promote employee happiness

You still need to boost morale and encourage happiness at work, even when employees aren’t in the workplace.

This will not only help their mental health but make them more motivated in the working day. Workplace happiness is about six core fundamentals. These are:

  • Reward and recognition
  • Information – giving enough and sharing it openly
  • Empowerment
  • Wellbeing
  • Instilling pride
  • Job satisfaction

Ensure you are encouraging and giving these to your employees, and they will be happy with their job role.

Get help from Health Assured with working from home

It is your responsibility to look after your employee’s wellbeing at work. If you don’t, you will face legal consequences, see your best employees leave, and experience decreased productivity.

Having wellbeing resources, such as an EAP or our app, you can support your employee’s wellbeing and keep productivity high.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our wellbeing consultants. Call 0844 891 0352 for ideas on promoting health and wellbeing at work.

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