How can leaders help burned out remote workers?

We speak to Aviva's people director to tackle the tricky issue

How can leaders help burned out remote workers?

While mental health awareness has been slowly gaining traction in Asia in recent years, Anuradha Purbey, people director, Asia at Aviva said that for some, it remains taboo to talk about their own struggles.

This makes it all the more complicated with employees thrown into remote working arrangements for long periods of time amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Many studies have highlighted the impact of the crisis on employees – higher stress levels while juggling home and work life, an ongoing struggle to ‘switch off’, burnout, and mental health triggers are some common consequences. Can leaders help?

READ MORE: COVID-19: Why burnout is on the rise

Purbey shared that so far, her team found weekly pulse surveys to be an effective way of staying updated on the well-being of employees. Aviva also has employment engagement initiatives in place to help employees sustain their wellness throughout the crisis.

Programs like virtual yoga and exercise sessions have been popular. Plus, they’re a good way to help individuals maintain work-life balance, she said.

Employees have also been particularly receptive to Yammer sessions, which are live chats with senior leaders and a platform for employees to share their concerns about the current situation. For instance, 448 employees interacted with Aviva’s CEO Nishit Majmudar during his live session recently, which now has close to 25,000 views.

“This reflects the appetite to hear from leaders for reassurance, connection and guidance during such times,” Purbey said. “Leaders are also encouraged to check-in virtually with their teams more frequently to identify any challenges or support needed.”

While leaders may not have the formal medical training to help those suffering from mental health issues, the HR head said being able to listen with empathy and without judgement can go a long way in creating a safe space for employees. This may encourage those struggling to reach out.

And since it’s been shown that ‘one-on-one’ time with leaders is highly coveted, managers should be equipped with the ability to safeguard well-being, especially as teams work remotely.

At Aviva, managers are provided with guides that help them better engage their teams remotely. This includes information packs on leading remotely that detail how to build team morale, trust and empathy. Leaders also have access to a personalised coaching support program.

Additionally, her team reminds leaders to practise flexibility during this difficult period – especially for team members who are caring for dependents at home.

READ MORE: Why COVID-19 is aggravating leadership burnout

But above all else, Purbey said that before leaders can extend their support to colleagues, it’s important that they feel supported when it comes to their own mental health.

“As leaders, it is our responsibility to champion the well-being of our team and make it a key component of our company’s DNA,” she said. “Though we do not have the professional expertise to solve all mental health issues, we can do our part by providing them with the type of support they require.

“It is also important for leaders to show that we, too, are human and are open about our own hardships. Creating an inclusive work culture starts from the top and setting an example for other employees to do the same can go a long way in forming a lasting positive impact on your team.”

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