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Employee Wellness Featured Mental Health 101 Suicide Prevention

6 Virtual Team-Building Ideas You Can Do Anytime.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to shift to a work-from-home set-up. While some have made the transition to working from home with ease, others are struggling to adapt. This is because remote teams have fewer opportunities to socialize and get to know each other, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from colleagues, and may translate to poor work productivity and an increase in mental distress.

In the previous article, we mentioned that one of the ways companies can improve and support the mental health of their employees is by regularly holding activities that allow staff to build rapport, improve communication, and increase co-workers’ understanding of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. If you are a business owner or a manager with staff who are not working in the same physical space, you might want to consider conducting virtual team-building exercises. As long as the participants can interact using an internet-connected tool like chat, video conference, etc., you can adapt many traditional team-building exercises to accommodate remote workers.

Below are 6 fun and effective activities that will help your team members work together and start bonding:

1. Favorite Things.

This simple activity is a good way for team members to get to know each other in a fun and relaxing way — because there are no wrong answers, participants will not feel stressed or anxious when they are called to share.

Mechanics: Assign a favorite thing topic, such as “Favorite thing about working from home” or “Favorite part about working for [company].” Everyone takes turns speaking.

2. Birth Map. 

This allows people to share something more personal about themselves. Share a country or world map on your screen and ask people to place a pin on or near their birth place. 

Mechanics: Ask participants to share a story or interesting trivia about their place of birth. 

3. Virtual Coffee Breaks.

This is an easy but effective way to catch up with team members.

Mechanics: Schedule a 15-minute period every day or even once a week when everyone in the team joins a video chat with a cup of coffee or their favorite beverage in hand, and they just talk to each other. Ideally, conversations must be not related to work and purely for fun, just like they might be if everyone was having a coffee break at the office together.

4. Game Day.

There are many group games that can be done online. At the start of the week, send out an email asking the team to vote on what game they would like to play for the week. 

Mechanics: Once a week, block off an hour within office hours or immediately after work and create a separate meeting room where participants can play as a group. 

5. Movie Night 

Similar to #4, you can host a monthly or quarterly movie night (or day). Ask everyone to vote for a movie and a time to watch it. Make sure that the films being considered are appropriately-themed and will not offend anybody’s religious, political, or gender views. 

Mechanics: Consider opening the chat function on the videoconferencing software so that everyone can share real-time reactions during the movie. 

6. Personality Test

Completing personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps team members and managers figure out each other’s potential strengths and weaknesses as well as who might work well together and who would do best being left alone. Use the results of the personality tests to open up a conversation. If you’re a manager, use the opportunity to find out what your employees’ goals are for personal and professional growth, and help them reach those goals. If you’re a worker, think about where you want to be in the company—and use your test results to discuss those goals with your supervisors.

Mechanics: The Myers-Briggs Test can be taken online at a cost. But the benefits include giving team members the chance to get to know each other on a deeper level, which will help everyone bond and learn how to communicate more effectively. 

Virtual team-building activities are a safe way to help team members feel more comfortable with each other, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness and building better connections and shared understanding. 

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNation connects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

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Employee Wellness Featured Mental Health 101 Suicide Prevention

6 Ways Companies can Help Reduce the Risk for Suicide in the Workplace

CONTENT WARNING: This article includes descriptions of suicide that may disturb some readers

Workplace suicide is defined as suicide in or outside the workplace, which may involve an employee, supplier, a significant customer, a family member, a close friend of any of the above. When it occurs, it has a devastating impact on the emotional well-being of both the victim and his/her co-workers.

According to the National Center of Mental Health, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic rise in mental health problems which may trigger or aggravate suicidal thoughts. This is because the virus outbreak has brought forth a slew of stressors that millions of people are experiencing for the first time in their lives: widespread job loss, deaths of loved ones that they are unable to properly mourn, and the heightened fear of contracting the disease, among others.

To make matters worse, social distancing policies crafted by health authorities to reduce the risk of infection have resulted in the removal of many of the resources people have traditionally used to cope with stress: Routines are disrupted; face-to-face contacts with family, friends, and mental health professionals are no longer allowed; exercise and other forms of outdoor physical activities have been curtailed; and even relaxing at home is now harder to achieve since the entire household is cooped up together.

Because people spend a large portion of their day at the workplace, it is highly likely that there will be those who are struggling with the stresses while doing work and hiding it. Employers and co-workers therefore have a crucial role to play in suicide prevention because they are in a position to spot the signs of being mentally unwell, as well as provide distressed individuals with an important social and emotional network.

Key elements of an effective workplace suicide prevention program might include:

1. Creating a workplace culture that promotes good mental health

Encourage staff to create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) whose members can serve as mental health champions as well as offer peer support when needed. In addition, managers can advocate or promote pro-mental health work benefits such as paid mental health days, sufficient vacation time, and other policies that acknowledge the importance of both physical and mental health.

2. Knowing and understanding your employees.

Regularly hold team-building events so that co-workers get to know each other on a more personal level. This will make it easier for them to identify colleagues who are exhibiting stress or drastic changes in mood or behavior.

3. Fostering a workplace culture where it is all right to seek help.

Employees should feel comfortable in approaching their superiors if they are feeling emotionally unwell. In turn, managers should have the confidence to be able to respond appropriately when an employee needs support.

4. Encouraging self-care and healthy living.

Regularly promote the importance of maintaining a balanced diet and getting enough exercise, as well as the risks of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, make sure that the on-site workplace environment itself follows safety protocols — air quality, lighting, temperature, noise levels, and physical distancing measures must meet minimum health standards to reduce the stress of employees.

5. Promoting a safe and positive work environment.

Bullying and harassment at work increase stress and the risk of suicide, so they should never be tolerated. Employers must act swiftly and decisively when allegations are made.

6. Educating and training managers and other key staff about suicide prevention awareness.

The suicide or attempted suicide of an employee — even if it does not occur on the job –can have a profound emotional effect on others in the workplace. Evidence has shown that when businesses take concrete measures to support staff health and well-being, these will translate to improved staff engagement and better productivity, leading to financial gain for all.

We can all help prevent suicide. If you or a loved one is in distress, MindNationconnects individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat, 24/7, anytime, anywhere. The service is completely confidential and the staff is trained to help you ease your anxieties. Start chatting here: http://m.me/themindnation

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Employee Wellness Featured

6 Ways to Show Empathy in the Workplace

With just a few simple actions you can help build stronger connections, foster a culture of honesty and openness, and make a real difference to the emotional well-being of your colleagues.

Empathy, or the ability to understand other people’s emotions, is an important skill in the workplace. When you can see things from someone else’s perspective, it becomes easier to resolve conflicts, improve productivity, and improve relationships with co-workers, clients, and customers. 

Here are some ways you can practice empathy at work: 

  1. Don’t just listen, pay attention to non-verbal cues as well. When someone is talking, use your eyes and ears to understand the message. Pay attention to their tone and body language. Observe how they are saying things – not just what they are saying. 
  2. Keep an open mind. One of the first steps to developing empathy is to let go of your own assumptions/beliefs and consider the other person’s perspectives. Listen respectfully and try to see where they are coming from. Don’t debate right away; instead, invite the person to describe their situation more and ask them for their suggestions on how the issue can be resolved.
  3. Be curious about other people’s lives and interests. Don’t just put yourself in another person’s shoes – instead, reach out and try on as many shoes as you can. As you broaden your knowledge, you will come to understand that just because someone else’s life is different from yours does not mean they are lesser than you. 
  4. Take care of your own mental health. If you cannot manage your own emotions and are constantly stressed or on edge, it will be difficult for you to understand what others are going through.
  5. Display compassion. When someone is in trouble or confused, lend a hand. When a colleague is sad, offer a shoulder to cry on. And when someone is worried, give your full attention and listen without judgement. All these things are examples of showing empathy. 
  6. Show gratitude. When we are more thankful to each other, we also become kinder and more tolerant individuals. Showing gratitude can be as simple as gifting your coworkers with snacks or praising them publicly for a job well done. 

Practice these skills often to develop your empathy. When you take an interest in what others think, feel, and experience, you’ll develop a reputation for being caring, trustworthy and approachable — and be a great asset to your team and your organization.

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Employee Wellness Mental Health 101

10 Tips to Manage Stress when you Work From Home (WFH)

Working from home (WFH) may seem like a dream come true in the beginning, but when you also have to manage the kids’ needs, home chores, and/or have to deal with co-workers who think being home means they can call you 24/7, the situation can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Here are some ways you can put in some order (and sanity) in your WFH set-up:

1. Set office hours and make sure everyone knows it

When you are working from your living room or bedroom, it’s easy for family members (especially kids) to assume that you are not working at all and just badger you for attention any time. The same is true for colleagues who think that there is nothing inappropriate with calling you up at midnight for a work-related query. Make it clear to workmates that you are only available during certain hours of the day, and that you will respect their time as well.

2. Establish your territory

Whether your workspace is a small table or a whole room (lucky you!), make sure it is used exclusively for work. This way, you can still separate “work life” from your “personal life.” In addition, furnish your space with pens, papers, and other materials that will be used solely for the “office.” This saves you the time (and stress) from constantly carrying materials back and forth, or misplacing them.

For your kids and other household members, instruct them that your working hours are sacred and you absolutely cannot be disturbed. Or if they do need to talk to you, they should knock first instead of barging in.

3. Discuss and delegate

If your spouse has free time to take over babysitting duties, perfect (don’t forget to return the favor when it’s his or her turn to be busy). If there are no other responsible adults around, have a serious discussion with your children beforehand about the importance of your “work hours”. This gives you peace and quiet to focus on your work but also the assurance that your children are safe and productive.  

4. Manage your deadlines by breaking them into chewable amounts

It is easy to procrastinate when you are working from home, so resist the temptation. Break down large projects into smaller steps, and set deadlines to complete each stage; this will make the overall output less overwhelming to do.

5. Make a to-do list

This might sound pretty basic, but it works! Start each day with a list of the tasks you need to accomplish at home and for work. Rank them according to importance, and organize your day so that you finish these to-do’s as soon as possible. Should you run out of time to do the less urgent tasks, don’t stress! You can always do them tomorrow.

6. Dress the part (even if it’s just the top-half!)

Unless you are mandated to dress up (i.e. you need to do a video-chat with upper management), you can pretty much wear whatever you want at your home office. But while there is no law against wearing pajamas all day, it might be the very thing making you feel sluggish and unmotivated. Better to slip into something that’s comfortable but at the same time semi-professional, comb your hair, put on some makeup – you’ll end up feeling more inspired to work.

7. Keep the Water Cooler Breaks

Don’t you just miss that walk to the water cooler and the talks with your office buddies? Take virtual lunch or coffee breaks together, and chat about non-work related matters. This helps ease the feeling of isolation, and will make you look forward to “going to work.”

8. Actually, just take breaks in general!

You do not have to be chained at your desk the whole time. Take a snack break or do some stretches every now and then. Come back to work when you are feeling more relaxed and refreshed.

9. Clock out and “go home”

Because the office desk is just a few steps away from the bedroom, it’s tempting to just keep working because your think you can stop anytime (which is actually counterproductive). Ignore the urge to work overtime! When office hours are over, shut down your laptop, keep it away, and ready yourself for home duties so you can properly rest. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

10. Practice gratitude

At the end of the day, the an attitude of gratitude will set you up to a calmer and more positive mood. While our situations vary greatly at home, we must always focus on the now, everything that went right, and how we can be better and do better tomorrow!

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of letting up, working from home is now becoming the norm for many. The set-up will take some getting used to, but by prioritizing your needs and building your mental resilience, you can settle into a comfortable routine in no time.

How do you practice calmness and routines when working from home?

Written by Jacq of MindNation