Working from Home: Mental Wellness & Team Cohesiveness


Rae Lyon, Associate Director, Missouri Training Institute & Dr. Rasha El Kady, a psychiatrist at MU Health Care joined the Chamber to discuss mental wellness and team cohesiveness while working remotely.

Download Missouri Training Institute’s slides here.

Rae Lyon, Missouri Training Institute & Dr. Rasha El Kady, MU Health Care joined the Chamber to discuss mental wellness and team cohesiveness while working remotely. First Dr. Rasha El Kady spoke on the importance of mental wellness. 

Part One: Dr. Rasha El Kady, MU Health Care

Not all anxiety is bad! Some level of worry is good to keep homes clean or to take care of families. On the other hand, there is a ‘wrong worry’ or a psychological worry that can wreak havoc on our lives. There are ways to help soothe the anxiety we experience especially as it may be heightened during this current pandemic. 

Limit your intake of news:  Find one source of trusted information and stick to it. 

Reality and how we perceive reality are two different things. Realize your cognitive distortion or the ways your mind makes you perceive reality inaccurately in a negative way. Mental filtering can have us concentrate on the negative aspect of a situation instead of the positive. Instead of looking at the death rate, notice that compactly there is a higher recovery rate. It’s important to recognize the grey in the middle and the positives of the current situation.

Things to avoid: 

  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Personalizing that things, or in this case the pandemic, are against you
  • The ‘I should have’s’ i.e. ‘I should have seen this coming,’ or ‘I should have done x,y, or z’ these thoughts will not serve you

These actions will breed a setting for paranoia and anxiety. 

Those who do not usually work from home will struggle the most during this time. It’s important 

Physical exercise, people who were more active before will suffer more

The best way to deal with the situation is to create and stick to your own routine. Make yourself wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. A morning routine helps to maintain the same structure every day. Resist napping, but if you absolutely need one, schedule it, and set an alarm. 

Keep your eating patterns the same. If you used to cook, Keep cooking! If you were used to picking up food from other places, then take advantage of curbside pickup. Keep your diet healthy to help keep your mind healthy. 

By making a dedicated office space, you can help set yourself up for productive work and better equip yourself with a way to turn-off. Try to create as much the social life you had before as much as you can. Try Facetiming before or during your lunch, and interactive virtual game nights. 

If you have children, keep in mind that their level of thinking is different than adults. They need things that adults don’t always care about. Teenagers need to have communication with their friends. Try encouraging apps where kids can watch movies with their friends, but avoid having teenagers alone in their rooms alone with media.

Look at the positives, you can still go outside, you can still go for a walk, there is an opportunity to develop new habits and spend more time with families.

Part Two: Rae Lyon, Missouri Training Institute  

Two Biggest stressors of remote workers: 

#1 They don’t think their boss thinks they’re working if they’re not constantly communicating that their boss.

#2 They don’t think their colleagues like them.

Promoting team cohesiveness:

No relationship will just maintain, it will either get worse or it will get better

  • Incorporate quiet connectivity, i.e. the water cooler conversation
  • Don’t rush to kick off the meeting
    • Resist the urge to fixate on productivity – think the connection
  • Talk about trivial stuff
  • Find time for laughter
  • Build in the socialization time
    • Schedule one hour of protected time just to be used for connecting

Be intentional that your communication is understood and the tone of the message is understood as well. 

Strategies for managing remote workers

Individualize

  • Understand how each employee best performs 
    • Tell me about the conditions under which you perform best
  • Find out what’s n their mind
    • What are your concerns about working remotely?
    • What has been your emotional response during this situation? 
  • Continue to coach and connect as normally as possible
  • Communicate
    • Decide how you will communicate: email, IM, Zoom phone, etc.
      • Choose the right mix of technology for the right situation/task
      • Do not solve problems via email; pick up the phone
    • Decide how often check-ins should occur
    • Always assume positive intent
    • Send emails or post videos about your reasoning, intentions, and expectations:
      • Make it easy for employees to now your thoughts and contribute their needs
    • Respond as quickly as possible
  • Set expectations
    • Early and cleary
    • X is the work you should do.
    • Y is the quality standard.
    • Z is the deadline

Stay focused on goals, not activity

  • No one wants to hear your to-do list
  • How productive are you? Not how busy
  • What have you accomplished? 
  • Be very clear on behavior expected during conference calls.
  • Be mindful of “reply all” responses; this can bog down productivity
    • If you’re copied in, you do not need to respond, it’s just an FYI
  • The more detail, the better
    • Overcommunicate
  • Clearly communicate expectations of remote performance
    • Online from A to B and C to D (if appropriate)
    • Summary of daily work accomplished
  • Be cognizant of those caring for others
    • Children at home
    • Illnesses

Healthy Boundaries are good! Boundaries will increase your productivity for the next day.