June 15, 2020

Five tactics to help manage you and your team’s mental health

User profile photo of Kathryn Christie

Kathryn Christie

Talent and Culture

I think it’s fair to say that we’re all adjusting to a lot at the moment: concerns around the health of our loved ones, the economy and the general stress of massive unexpected change. 

It’s important to care for your family and your business but to do that, you’ve got to take care of yourself. I love this quote: “You can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first.” In this article, I’ve summarized five tactics to help you manage you and your team’s mental and physical health, and added a flavor of what we’re doing to support our team at Georgian.

1. Limit News Intake

The best advice we’ve heard is to limit exposure to the news! When you do engage, choose what you read carefully. There are endless ways to find updates on COVID-19, but as Camh mentions in their resource center, “while staying informed is helpful, too much information may not provide extra benefit. Limit checking sources to once per day or less if you can.” 

To cut through the noise at your company, it may be useful to create a channel on your messaging platform and do the hard work for your team. Provide new information from reputable sites on an as-needed basis. The goal here is to solidify your team’s confidence in your leadership and lessen their desire to be sucked into the pit of today’s news cycles.

2. “Name it and tame it.”

Many of us are understandably dealing with anxiety. To start dealing with anxiety, it’s important to understand what you’re actually worried about. For most of us, it is the combination of concerns that leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety. This “name it and tame it” tactic was coined by the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH)

Here’s how it works: Make a long list of all your worries and then reflect on how likely it is that these threats will impact you. Cross off the ones that are unlikely to impact you, label others as out of your control and finally focus on the ones that are in your control. Make a plan to manage the concerns that you can impact in some way. 

If you’re managing a team, check in with them and do your part in understanding their concerns and easing their worry where you can. 

Many meditation apps are offering free services to help people manage their stress and anxiety. Check out Headspace, Balance, Calm.com, and Insight Timer.

3. Stay Connected to People

Staying connected to your community during stressful times is essential to preserving resilience. But staying connected is hard right now. You and your team are already juggling kids at home, roommates and family members all at home all day. It might seem impossible to fit in time to call a friend or a family member, but it’s worth it. 

Our advice here would be to block some outreach time in your calendar during times that you typically wouldn’t be sitting at your desk doing deep work. Try calling a friend when you’re making your coffee in the morning. Or call your parents during lunch and pull the rest of the family in to talk to them. If you schedule a couple of times a week, it will show up in your calendar as something you’ve already committed to and will give you the impetus to reach out.

4. Keep Employee Morale High 

It’s easy to forget how much interaction happens in just one day when employees are in the office. You bump into a coworker in the hallway or go for coffee and hear about each other’s lives. You listen to what they did on the weekend, their priorities for their week and where they’re blocked. So how do you keep employee morale high when everyone is working remote and you can’t exactly “bump into someone” in the hallway?

We’ve put a lot of effort into this. Even before COVID-19, we had a team focused on engagement, helping employees to stay connected and get to know each other. This team has been super active since we shifted to a remote work model. Here are some of our favorite digital engagement initiatives. 

  1. Set up a team-wide messaging channel to encourage everyone to share their working from home setup, favorite playlists and what they’re doing in the evenings now that they can’t go anywhere! This is working really well to make up for the lack of hallway conversations. 
  2. Set up internal digital coffee chats. The idea here is to randomly pair everyone at the company up with a partner and schedule 30-minute coffee chats. We do Fridays at 9:30 am. This has been great for keeping in touch with people across the company. 
  3. Schedule a weekly All Staff and “happy hour”! Having a scheduled, weekly All Staff for each team to provide a brief update on highlights from the week ensures that you can stay aligned on what the whole company is working on. And happy hour makes everyone happy! 

Whatever you’re doing to keep the team engaged, take a pulse on your engagement initiatives to see whether it’s working. We use a Slack bot that surveys how people are feeling and what we could be doing better. If things are going well, keep doing what you are doing. If engagement scores are dipping, try something new.

5. Encourage Self Care

A few members of our team commented on how hard it is to draw the line between work and personal life while working from home. It’s easy to forget to take breaks from work throughout the day as you would if you were in the office and all too easy to keep working into the evening. 

Make it clear that you care about your team’s wellbeing and that they need to take care of themselves and their families first, whether that’s time teaching kids, feeding the family or just getting out for a walk and some fresh air. 

We heard from a couple of people at Georgian that they were actually missing their subway commute time, as it was their only time away from notifications. They’re now taking “commute walks” in the morning. They’re using the time to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, music, or whatever they would usually do on their commute. With their phone on airplane mode ✈️ ! 

Another way to draw the line between work and personal time is through exercise. A lot of exercise apps are offering their service for free right now. A couple I’ve come across include Lululemon, Down Dog, Nike Training Club, and Daily Burn. Try leaving your gear out and changing into it at five-thirty on the dot. 

If you have tried interesting ideas that have helped you or your organization, I’d love to hear them—connect with me on LinkedIn. Stay healthy!

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