Remote Working is Complex
It’s quite challenging to spot the signs of stress in a colleague or employee at the best of times, but now that much corporate communication is done behind screens this has become even more tricky.
However, even if you’re not in the same space it is possible to pick up on signs that all is not well. This is likely to be displayed in
- their body language
- their overall appearance
- their tone of voice
- the words they are using
There are many physical, emotional and behavioural signs that all is not well:
- Are they late to meetings or taking more time off than usual?
- Do they appear irritated, anxious, emotional or over-reactive?
- Do they lack concentration?
- Have they demonstrated a decline in relationships with work colleagues or mentioned a problem in personal relationships?
- Have you started noticing that work is sloppy, inaccurate or being delivered late?
- Have they mentioned feeling tired, or having headaches or not sleeping?
You might also notice that there has been a reduction in communication via text or SMS or that this form of communication is done outside of usual work hours – very late at night or very early in the morning…
What can you do to help?
Being empathetic is the best place to start, and certainly one sure way of “taking the temperature” of their wellbeing is to organise regular one to one check in’s. These should use meaningful questions around how people are feeling rather than as a social preamble to the work meeting.
The CIPD has created a very helpful guide called “The People Manager’s Guide to Mental Health” https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/mental-health-at-work-1_tcm18-10567.pdf In it they provide some pointers about this kind of conversation where they advise that good questions to ask are
- How are you doing at the moment?
- You seem to be a bit down/upset/under pressure/frustrated/angry. Is everything okay?
- I’ve noticed you’ve been arriving late recently and I wondered if you’re okay?
- I’ve noticed the reports are late when they usually are not. Is everything okay?
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- What would you like to happen? How?
- What support do you think might help?
- Have you spoken to your GP or looked for help anywhere else?
They advise that the following questions are not at all helpful and should be avoided:
- You’re clearly struggling. What’s up?
- Why can’t you just get your act together?
- What do you expect me to do about it?
- Your performance is really unacceptable right now – what’s going on?
- Everyone else is in the same boat and they’re okay. Why aren’t you?
- Who do you expect to pick up all the work that you can’t manage?
If employees volunteer that they are stressed be sure to ask for the cause and for their opinion as to how things might be improved. Be ready to avoid overwhelm by reducing workloads in the short term or in specific situations such as them having to deal with home schooling or a family illness.
Certainly make sure that you’re not trying to get in touch with them outside work hours and acknowledge that it’s OK not to be OK by being transparent about your own stress triggers.
Encourage them to take regular breaks from work and the screen. There are apps that can help with this and self-help techniques like the Pomodoro Technique which is described in full by its inventor just here https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
Managers can also help their employees by acting as a role model in terms of talking about how they are safe guarding their own wellbeing
When external support may be helpful
The side effects of employee stress are likely to be complicated and sensitive such that you may not feel sufficiently equipped to provide the level of support that your employee needs.
This is where professional coaches and counsellors can help. Of course they also offer an objective and confidential arena in which to discuss matters which would be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss in a work related environment.
In my own Practice I offer accessible, responsive, tailor made support which is informed both by neuroscience and the latest research. If you think I could support any team members who are struggling in your organisation please get in touch.
I hope this blog post has been helpful .
Please contact me to see how I can help!
I make every effort to ensure that advice on this website is accurate and up to date. As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals I cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can I be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.