How bosses can help staff manage stress when working remotely


It is very hard to know how your staff are feeling right now. Not just because they’re at home but because everyone will react differently to the current circumstances. That’s why we’ve spoken to some doctors from The Priory Group, a leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, about the ways in which bosses can best manage their workers’ stress and give them the support they need.

Dr Paul McLaren, a consultant psychiatrist and medical director who works with City workers at the Priory’s Wellbeing Centres in central London, says;  “Many staff will be used to working remotely and will have developed strategies for optimising their performance and well-being from experience.

“But the current crisis has brought enforced home working and it is important for bosses to recognise that some employees may find it a lot more difficult than others.  We are social creatures and it is easy to forget the feelings of security and calmness that come from just being around other people.  How much we need that will vary widely between individuals.

“If you are dealing with challenging or emotive issues as a boss, don’t rely on email communication.  You can miss and misinterpret a lot in an email if you or your employee are already in an emotional state. If you are trying to deal with a sensitive issue, then pick up the phone or use the web cam. The telephone is probably more personal and sensitive as a medium than all but the highest quality of interactive video. If anyone feels distant or disconnected then check it out with them directly.  Pick up the phone and call.

“Don’t forget that home working for many people will be stressful because children will be at home and there will be real concerns and worries about health. If you are leading a team, then give them time to interact whether that is for a few minutes at the start of call or videoconference or even build in some informal ‘watercooler’ time.”

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And Pamela Roberts, a Priory psychotherapist based at Priory’s Woking Hospital gave some advice for those self-isolating right now. She says “Ensure you are in a well-ventilated room and following basic self-care, so healthy eating, sleep, lots of hydration, and try to keep to a routine. Set up a ‘buddy group’ with family or friends and regularly check in online or with Facetime.

“If you feel low, journaling can be a helpful way to unload emotions. Take things a day at a time – planning may have once been essential but projection can evoke fear and anxiety. Go with the flow. Take care of yourself, focus on recovery. Tell yourself ‘what I am doing is enough’. Be good to yourself. If you have slept badly, accept you’ll be in a low, more anxious mood. Your energy will be low.

“Try and relax and focus on positive things knowing that every effort is being made globally to bring this situation to a close, but it will take time. Being able to relax will help you through. When you’re tense you tend to dwell on things and make them worse. If you are well enough, exercise is really good. Look for online classes or courses to help you take light exercise in your home. Find music that helps boost your mood. If you are able, get into your garden and get daily doses of sunshine.

“If you feel well enough, maybe look at some free online courses offered by the Open University. The mental health charity Mind has some very useful advice on self-isolating and your mental health. For support with grief, anxiety, or mental wellbeing, you can call or text an organisation like the Samaritans, or you can access therapy online with a trained therapist.”

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