Supporting remote-working employees.
Our mental health has been compounded by the experience of Covid-19, and its accompanying feelings of anxiety, grief and isolation. Mind (Mental Health Charity) estimates that one in four people experience a mental health problem each year – and loneliness has become a newly contributing factor, with a quarter of adults finding it difficult to cope working away from colleagues. As many of us have retreated from busy office spaces into lone and remote working, businesses have encountered a new area in which employees will need additional support. At ETL, we have engaged with lone working since the company’s inception 25 years ago, and in that time have learned a great deal about supporting our staff.
One such lone-worker at ETL is Jon Fitzgerald, who is also particularly passionate about the campaign for better mental health awareness and PTSD support, after losing his brother last year.
Paddle for Fitz
When lockdown lifts, Jon and a team of friends and family will be taking part in an impressive 347km paddle challenge in memory of his brother, Lee Fitzgerald, or “Fitz”. They hope to raise crucial funds in Lee’s name, which will help support families who have suffered a similar loss of a loved one.
Lee joined the Royal Marines after finishing school, travelling extensively during his service and finding a close community of friends. Transitioning from active service to civilian life can be difficult for many ex-servicemen and women, and Lee’s family are keen to use the fundraiser as an opportunity to highlight the work of the Royal Marines Charity, who provide support during this time.
Jon has also chosen to support Hope After Suicide Loss (HOPE), an East Anglian charity which provides unique and peer-led support to the survivors of suicide loss.
The fundraiser in memory of Lee is a key reminder that there is more work to do around mental health awareness. Jon explains that still, too many people are suffering in silence, and he encourages people to share their own experiences to help tackle the idea that mental health is a ‘taboo’ topic.
Mental health – not there yet
Whilst training for the challenge, Jon has met other people who have also been impacted by suicide loss, and his time spent with HOPE has made clear how widespread such experiences are. With men in the UK half as likely to access mental health therapies than women, it is also thought that men are less likely to speak about their mental health issues too. But in Jon’s words, we should all be “shouting from the rooftops about it”.
How does Jon manage his own mental health? For him, a fast and furious workout at the local boxing gym certainly helps, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution for navigating the tough days. Some of the tips below might give you an idea of where to begin, but undoubtedly, one of the most important takeaways from Jon, is the need to speak with others about your experiences.
- Talk to friends, family, and your employer
- Keep active with regular exercise
- Work towards a balanced, healthy diet
- Take breaks when you need them
- Consider a new hobby or interest
Employers have a key role to play in an individual’s network of support, and this need is even greater when staff are regularly working off-site and independently.
Lone working and mental health
It is estimated that up to 8 million people in the UK are lone workers. Without regular contact and strong communication between managers and employees, lone working staff are at risk of feeling disconnected and isolated – and this is without the added pressures caused by lockdown.
At ETL, 45% of our employees fall under the bracket of lone workers. Most of our staff have little need to come into the office, except for specific training events, and so we work hard to make sure that everyone feels like part of the team.
ETL employees are often required to travel across the UK, staying at hotel accomodation for the duration of their trip. As well as being absent from colleagues and the office, working away can also create a distance between employees and their families, which is why we have developed communication tools that help staff stay connected across all levels .
Each staff member is kitted out with a tablet, and we use the messaging services to communicate with each other. The apps lends themselves to informal, chatty discourse, and helps us to re-create those all-important “water-cooler moments” between staff. We also use regular email contact and a company newsletter, The Buzz, to help foster that sense of an ETL community.
Want to support Jon’s fundraiser? Here’s how.
Jon looks forward to gathering with friends to celebrate and commemorate Lee on their trip to Wales. Jon also would one day like to join HOPE as a volunteer – giving back by supporting others who have experienced a similar loss. In Jon’s words, “you’ve just got to keep going”, one paddle at a time.