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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 psychologists are available for teletherapy sessions 24/7. Book a session now thru: bit.ly/mn-chat.

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Happy Hour: 8 Simple Ways To Unwind After A Stressful Day

At the end of a long and tiring day, it’s tempting to just plop down on the bed and sleep off the stress. But research has shown that doing so has the adverse effect of keeping you up at night because you did not give your body and brain the time to detach from work mode.   

Instead of trying to go straight to sleep, do some fun and relaxing activities first to clear out the stressful and negative emotions that stayed with you throughout the day. Once you have sufficiently decompressed, you will sleep better and wake up the following day more refreshed and prepared for the challenges ahead. 

Here are some suggestions for unwinding:

  • Take a warm bath

A warm bath is perfect for relaxing because it activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for the rest-and-digest response that occurs in our body when we’re at rest) and it relaxes the muscles. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to truly enjoy the bath. A rushed shower will not help you feel very relaxed.

  • Use aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit. Oils like lavender and lemon in particularly are used to improve sleep. If you are hesitant about lighting scented candles, purchase a diffuser instead and plug it in your bedroom or bathroom. 

  • Listen to music

Music is a powerful stress management tool – it has been proven to help slow heart rate, decrease stress hormones, and lower blood pressure. Singing along to your favorite songs can also take your mind off your worries. So listen to your favorite playlist or CD while you get ready for bed.

  • Drink tea

Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces mental and physical stress and keeps us calm. If you have the time, brew a pot from loose tea leaves rather than simply dunking a tea bag in a cup. 

  • Meditate

Science has shown that controlled breathing can help manage stress. Find a quiet spot where you can sit properly, then take slow, deep, measured breaths that swell your abdomen rather than your rib cage. Stay this way for five to 10 minutes. You can even use meditation apps like Headspace or Calm to guide you.

  • Indulge in some comfort food

If you have three or more hours to spare before bedtime, have a proper dinner. Avoid caffeine or sugary foods though, because these can mess with your sleep. Instead, fill your plate with whole grain carbohydrates, leafy vegetables, fatty fish, and fruits.

  • Ignore your phone

Responding to messages and repeatedly checking social media can amount to a serious energy drain and increase in stress, so switch your phone to silent mode as soon as you get home, and put it someplace where you cannot readily see it so that you won’t be tempted to take a peek when temptation strikes. 

  • Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine for stress. It relaxes the whole body, triggers the release of endorphins, and reduces stress hormones. Watch a few episodes of your favorite sitcoms, goof around with pets or children, or go to karaoke bar with friends.

Always take time to relax after a long day at work. Simple things like taking a warm bath or eating a warm dinner with friends can rejuvenate your mind and body and get you ready for a brand new day tomorrow.

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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 Jac of MindNation