Based on the results of our study of over 7600 teleworkers, this guide will show why it's important to address the needs of your remote or hybrid team in terms of psychological well-being, the benefits of addressing it properly, and some possible solutions you can implement in your company.
Companies are increasingly aware of the importance of attending to the psychological well-being of their work teams. And in the wake of the pandemic effects, they now recognize even more the challenge of caring for well-being in the workplace since they now have 100% remote or hybrid teams.
Having information about the teams’ psychological well-being needs is key to building and maintaining optimal levels of well-being at work, which then results in healthy, motivated and highly efficient and productive teams.
Why pay attention to the mental and emotional well-being of your employees?
One of the premises that has driven Human Resources departments’ work and that project leaders, managers and CEOs take into account when managing the processes of their respective fields of expertise and action, is the recognition that people are the fundamental pillar that drives our organizations.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a milestone that led us to take interest in the mental and emotional care of our teams. We have also sought a more holistic and integrative understanding of what affects the mental health of our employees, in which two essential aspects emerge:
- Relationships and processes specific to the work environment.
- Other significant relationships and contexts in people's lives.
All this can influence the employee's relationship with their work and have a direct or indirect impact on the very dynamics of companies and business productivity.
The hopeful side of these challenges is that not only is it possible to address the mental and emotional discomfort of our teams, but companies that do so actually improve their performance.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) states that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion annually in lost productivity.
- According to Oxford University's Saïd Business School, productivity increases by 13% in happy workers.
- The WHO states that for every $1 invested in employee mental health, there is a $4 return in improved health and productivity.
What you should know about your team's psychological wellbeing
Our experience working with companies in the field of mental and emotional well-being helped us identify the following points:
- Companies often invest heavily in pre-made training and wellness programs. At the end of these, both managers and employees are left with the feeling that the impact of such actions has been low.
- There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. The particularities of each work environment, cultural contexts and the life trajectory of the employees themselves, shape the framework of the needs to be addressed in this field.
- Problems in the field of mental and emotional well-being tend to hide or mimic in work environments. This occurs because there is usually a high level of social desirability that favors employees to assume an attitude of "keeping up their best behavior" and keeping up appearances.
- Lack of motivation, irritability, poor performance, lack of concentration and other seemingly superficial indicators may only be the tip of the iceberg. In other words, these emotions are only the visible face of deeper problems at the individual level, but also of the relationships between members of the team.
Therefore, undertaking the task of identifying the needs of our employees in terms of mental and emotional well-being is an indispensable step to achieve the following:
- Implementing the most coherent and relevant solutions to address the problems of our work teams.
- Manage the type of changes that can lead us to recover and improve the desired productivity levels.
Mental and emotional wellbeing needs of remote teams ¹
In May 2021, we conducted a survey to identify some mental and emotional well-being needs of CEOs, Managers and Employees of companies working either remotely or combined.
One of the first aspects that caught our attention was the level of coordination between the perceptions of CEOs and HR Directors with the responses of employees. The latter coincide in pointing out the same dimensions as problematic, although they vary relatively in the frequency with which they point them out.
We will see below the results and reflections that emerged from the analysis of the evaluated axes:
CEOs and HR Directors are more likely to recognize that they have manifested the emotions shown in Figure 1. Except for sadness, all of these emotions are above 20% frequency, with hopelessness, anxiety, isolation and irritability standing out with levels close to or above 30%.
¹ The survey was filled out by a total of 7681 participants during the 10 days it was available online. For the sample of our analysis, 200 responses were taken from CEOs and Management and 600 from employees, making a total of 800 responses.
Graph 1: Mental and emotional well-being needs - Emotion management
Source: Own elaboration.
For their part, employees highlight stress and anxiety as the most prevalent emotions in the last year, with the rest of emotions being below 20% in terms of frequency, although isolation and irritability reach significant levels.
We believe that the way we manage our emotions has important effects on our daily activities and relationships. We also believe that what affects us in one context can have repercussions in other aspects of our lives.
No emotion is, in itself, positive or negative, but culturally we have learned to ignore or fight or exploit unpleasant emotions, lacking the resources to help us manage them.
For these reasons, recognizing the prevalence of these emotions in our work teams should be a warning about the quality of their mental and emotional well-being. This was the only part of the survey where there was no significant percentage of people who didn’t identify with any of the emotions evaluated.
To be specific, the combination of stress, anxiety and irritability is a set of symptoms present in the Burnout syndrome. This condition is becoming one of the most significant characteristics of the impact generated by the pandemic on the world economy, especially among CEOs and managers, who are almost forced to overperform in order to move their companies forward.
Productivity and performance
What we saw in the previous axis regarding Burnout seems to correlate with the above 20% affirmative answer that many CEOs and Executives give to the question about the "being burned out", present in the productivity and performance axis.
Graph 2: Mental and emotional well-being needs - Productivity and performance.
Source: Own elaboration.
On this same axis, we find that the disposition/attitude to customer service and work-life balance are also pointed out by CEOs, Managers and Employees as recurring difficulties in the last year.
Clearly, work-life balance has emerged as one of the "hot" topics within the mental and emotional wellness service offering, particularly work-life balance. There was an urgent need to address the fact that both aspects were taking place within the same physical space of the home in order to ensure responsible parenting, the achievement of work goals and the mental wellbeing of the employee.
In contrast, it is particularly worrying that low performance and demotivation are so prevalent among employees, as these are two aspects that are often closely linked to productivity in companies.
In our experience, we have recognized that these feelings and attitudes tend to linger for a long time, even after a crisis has passed. In this context, we designed Mapping Optimism, a short strategy about working with remote teams that seeks to reactivate optimism, increase motivation and improve performance.
But it's not all bad news. On the productivity axis, we found that, contrary to what seems to be a trend in terms of process management concerns, combined modalities or shifts alternation do not seem to pose a challenge to mental and emotional well-being.
On the other hand, the feeling of being always connected, which so many employees expressed at the beginning of the pandemic, seems to be a thing of the past, and the introduction of hybrid or alternating modalities for remote work and the gradual opening up of leisure and entertainment spaces have played a considerable role in reactivating social life.
The dimensions that were best evaluated by the respondents were those corresponding to this axis, where both employees (17%) and CEOs and Managers (18.8%) agree that the problems are found especially in peer relations, with the other dimensions at levels below 1%.
A little tension and healthy competition between peers is not usually a bad thing for companies, but these levels could be indicative of the need to propose actions in this area. On the other hand, it would be worthwhile to take advantage of the good assessment that everyone makes of the relationships between managers, and between managers and their subordinates, as they could be a resource within companies.
Something similar to what happens in the previous axis could be said about soft skills, where leadership, adaptation to change and teamwork stand out as competencies in which there are no perceived problems, and can be interpreted as the strongest organizations’ resources for the respondents.
However, time management is seen as problematic by at least 25% of the organization's stakeholders and, among employees, communication occupies a similar frequency.
We understand soft skills as the ABC of work environments. They constitute those types of competencies which are the pillars in how we approach work tasks and processes. If these skills are deficient, processes that are the most complex and that primarily depend on professional knowledge may also be affected and should therefore be addressed.
Graph 3: Mental and emotional well-being needs - soft skills
Source: Own elaboration.
In this last axis, we find that job uncertainty is one of the dimensions that mostly put at risk this central aspect for companies during the last year. This is not a surprise given the context we’re living in the current situation.
Job stagnation was not a particular concern for respondents in the last year, and we’re almost sure of the possible reason: in the midst of a context of high job uncertainty, job stability tends to matter more than the very possibilities of growth and promotion.
It is clear that the feeling of commitment, belonging, team spirit and even employee productivity decreases in contexts charged with this type of uncertainty, which is not a very good combination in terms of corporate identity.
Graph 4: Mental and emotional well-being needs - Corporate identity.
Source: Own elaboration.
What can I do to take care of my team's psychological well-being?
- According to the therapist Gianfranco Cecchin, recognizing the part of responsibility that each one of us has to take if we want to change is a first step. In this sense, companies should take care of the mental and emotional well-being of the teleworker as part of their responsibility and commitment to their teams.
- Take an interest in the mood of your employees, especially in 1-on-1 conversations and, above all... try to keep it casual, yet serious. The idea is to convey security and confidence, in an environment free of retaliation.
- Take these conversations as an opportunity to ask about the solutions tried by your team members. Also, it doesn't hurt if you exchange comments and experiences, your own or others', that may be useful in addressing the situation.
- Encourage group meeting spaces, both to work as a team and to have a relaxed moment of exchange. Teleworkers often miss the healing power of informal contact with their co-workers.
- These kinds of daily actions can give you clues about the need for more global actions. It may be necessary to seek professional support to intervene on the mental and emotional well-being of your team.
- It is essential that companies undertake rigorous exercises frequently to assess the needs associated with the psychological well-being of their teams.
- Intervention alternatives should make sense to team members. Try to involve them in decisions about what to do, how and when to do it, who will participate, and other things that can be agreed upon.
- Keep in mind that the commitment of team members to their own mental and emotional well-being increases when they see the importance of working on this aspect and how meaningful it is. You can try using short messages, a couple of times a month, to raise awareness on the subject.
- Rigorous, efficient and comprehensive processes, such as the ones we carry out at MVT with In the Mirror, contemplate the recognition of needs, the commitment and empowerment of the team,as well as the joint design of solutions and their implementation.
- Do not underestimate the importance of problems in other contexts or vital spheres in the teleworker’s life and the impact these can have on the processes of the company. In that sense, targeting both individual and group solutions may be the best course of action.
- We recommend looking at this set of guidelines or tips as a daily, constant process, rather than punctual. The idea is being able to feel that there’s always a follow-up, since people's psychological well-being changes a lot.
To us, it is clear that there are many paths to explore together and that the use of creativity in how to take care of the psychological well-being of our teams is an inexhaustible resource.
From Managing Virtual Teams, we will continue to generate knowledge and proposals that add value to your company's processes. Our network of expert psychologists remains committed to the mental and emotional well-being of your team.
Maintaining motivation and optimism in work teams is not something that magically happens by itself. Rather, it is a vital element that is continuously built starting from the base of the organizations and that is reflected in the successful achievement of their objectives. Although it is a fundamental element, not all companies give it its due importance in their on-site, remote or hybrid teams. In the following lines we will show you why optimism is important in companies, what are the advantages of having optimistic people in your work team and give you some recommendations that will allow you to improve this important aspect that constantly comes with new challenges. Let's start this journey!
Did you know about the optimism coefficient?
The optimism coefficient refers to the proportion of optimism and pessimism that exists in a group of people. Both are equally contagious, but their results are very different. While the former generates a resonant impact on the emotional climate of the group, the latter leaves a dissonant and negative effect.
While pessimism harms the work development and blocks its continuity in difficult times, optimism is a constructive ingredient that helps to achieve the proposed objectives and activates motivation and teamwork.
High-performance teams are undoubtedly characterized by being optimistic, but it is not about just any type of optimism and much less about seeing everything through rose-coloured glasses or as in a fairy tale. On the contrary, what is meant is an enabling optimism that doesn’t lose connection with reality. We are talking about the type of optimistic people who, in the face of any situation of adversity, have or start developing the ability to find realistic opportunities and solutions.
Advantages of having optimistic people in the team
Optimism is fundamental not only to overcome adversity, but also to achieve the goals set as a company and as a team. It is not a magic formula or a logical law that guarantees that optimism equals more success. No matter how optimistic we are, situations of conflict that we cannot control will inevitably arise in our lives. What is certain is that in the face of unforeseen events or even in cases of failure, optimism allows us to have a constructive and learning outlook and to respond with a positive attitude to the different challenges that happen at work and in our daily life.
Here are some of the advantages of having positive and optimistic people in companies:
- It improves the organizational climate and the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people facilitating the organizational processes of companies.
- It reduces stress and anxiety, increasing life expectancy and allowing a better management of emotions.
- It helps to achieve common objectives by raising self-esteem and increasing motivation.
- It increases flexibility and perseverance in the face of challenges.
- It allows us to face conflict situations as an opportunity for growth and learning.
- It improves communication through a sense of humor and connection through emotions.
- It improves cohesion in the work team by creating trust and a sense of belonging.
Recommendations to boost optimism in the work team
Optimism is not born, it is made. It is not a gift or an aptitude that people are born with, but rather a learned attitude that we acquire, that is cultivated throughout life and that must be constantly nurtured and restored. For this reason it is important to include in the companies' Wellness program some actions that allow a constant cultivation of this important element.
Some recommendations and good practices that will help you have active optimism in your team are:
1- Start with yourself:
The optimism coefficient’s highest degree of maturity is being able to transmit it. Undoubtedly, you are the first one who must start setting an example and opening this door in order to sow and transmit this dose of positivism to the people around you. To do this, start connecting yourself with positive thoughts that stimulate the culture of optimism by promoting positive feedback and being the bearer of good news and words of encouragement.
You can also count on people within your team who have a good level of emotional intelligence since they will not only connect with optimism but also become promoters of this great movement.
2- Assess the team:
Evaluate and measure the level of optimism coefficient of your company with a certain degree of regularity. A smile may hide vital moments that could be putting the well-being of your team at risk and generating interference. You can do this through a diagnosis that allows you to know the current mental and emotional well-being states and needs of your team. You can rely on experts who will also provide you with an action path to boost optimism and maintain the mental and emotional well-being of your team.
3- Create group spaces to reactivate optimism:
The best incentive you can give your team to recognize their great efforts is a group space where they can develop and reactivate their optimistic mindset. Not only will it help them regain motivation, but will also allow them to reconnect with the team spirit through trusting relationships that can assist them with the challenges they face as a company.
4- Manage a mental and emotional wellness plan:
No one is exempt from difficult experiences in their personal or work life, and this is precisely what makes us human. All these situations, when not oriented in a healthy way, can affect mental and emotional health, thus directly influencing work performance. For this reason, we recommend you to rely on experts to design a prevention, promotion and intervention program tailored to your company to assist and guide this type of process from an appreciative and constructive approach.
Managing Virtual Teams has a network of expert psychologists that will support you in the great adventure of reactivating optimism and taking care of your team’s mental and emotional well-being through strategies and spaces, making optimism the axis of the emotional intelligence of your team and your company.
Written by Claudia Buitrago – Psychologist; expert in emotional management
Work is a fundamental part of our lives. Most of us want to enjoy it, devoting ourselves to it with passion and optimism. However, as the human beings that we are, there are times when it’s easier for us to connect to our work with joy and enthusiasm and other times when working entails other emotional states such as stress, anguish, and anxiety, among others.
The pandemic situation and the reality of doing our jobs from home, in the virtual mode, has challenged us in countless arenas, one of them being our emotional realm. So, we have found ourselves swinging between the joy and gratitude of having a valuable job, for example, and the feeling of overload and exhaustion that comes with having to deal with different roles (being a psychologist, being a parent, being a homemaker...), multiple facets in one place.
Given these circumstances, our emotions can be an invaluable source of health and energy, thus the importance of engaging with them, experiencing them, and focusing on ourselves while keeping our emotional needs in mind. In other words, learning to manage our emotions in a healthy way will open up paths and possibilities for discovering resources and skills that can help us continue to enrich ourselves in our work environment.
Exploring Emotional Management and Its Importance within Work Environments and Virtual Teams
We can think of emotional management as a set of skills that assist us with containing or expressing our emotions, in a given context, to achieve a given objective. The main skills that comprise healthy emotional management are:
- STOP: The ability to stop is essential to produce responses mediated by attention and reasoning. Within healthy emotional management, this ability allows us to notice the emotional manifestations that are emerging within us, in other words, to identify the emotional state that’s being presented.
- NAME: By naming the emotion that’s being presented, like SADNESS, for example, we recognize it and begin to make room for it. The ability to recognize emotion is essential in emotional regulation. It involves opening the doors to the world of emotions, just like a good initial encounter with one of our clients can open the path to a valuable and fruitful working relationship.
- ACCEPT: The ability to accept emotions consists of welcoming that which is present. In our daily life, we have to experience different weather conditions: rainy and cold days, hot and breezy days, hot and humid days, etc. We experience very different emotional states within ourselves in the same way. According to this analogy, their acceptance is seen in the use of an umbrella and a coat on rainy and cold days, which make it easier for us to move in that weather condition. For some people, for example, listening to relaxing music can help them to accept the presence of stress and/or anxiety.
- TAKE OWNERSHIP: Taking ownership of our emotions means taking responsibility for them. It’s true that an external variable, like the pandemic, affects our emotional world in such a way that emotions like fear and/or anger can emerge. Nevertheless, the pandemic is NOT responsible for these emotions. We’re responsible for them. This implies that it’s up to us to respond to them. The ability to respond in this way belongs to us—as does the ability to make use of it. From the moment we take responsibility for our emotions, the possibility of learning from them and transforming them will expand as well.
These are some of the skills we use in healthy emotional management. When we strengthen and develop skills like these, we have the pleasant sensation of being in tune with ourselves. This sensation often expands to our relationships with our virtual team so that we experience greater fluidity, coordination, synchronicity, and, above all, a nurturing work environment, one that feeds us and facilitates our learning and development as human beings and as professionals.
Beyond Emotional Management
When we stop to explore and investigate the process of managing our emotions in detail, discover the skills involved, and give ourselves the opportunity to refine them, we realize that these skills aren’t only essential for contacting our emotional world, but for relating satisfactorily with others and our external world as well. And, if we focus on our work context, we discover that they’re central to the achievement of our goals, to what we call productivity.
So, for example, stopping and listening can result in the discovery of a new business opportunity; naming the state of things that one of our clients is describing to us assertively can translate into a sense of understanding and empathy in this client; accepting and assuming responsibility in the face of a complex and/or difficult work situation can result in the mobilization of professional and personal resources to catalyze the growth and transformation of our business. From this perspective, investing in the emotional health of your teams, relying on a network of psychologists who are experts in emotional management, professionals in opening and sustaining spaces for the mental and emotional care of your workers, is without a doubt, a great investment.
Written by Angélica Gómez – Psychologist; expert in family, child rearing, and early childhood
A lot has been written, from the perspective of the care economy, about the difficulty of reconciling productive work with the care work involved in tending to life in its most vulnerable stages. Parenting, looking after infants, cleaning, and guaranteeing the well-being of children is care work, which takes place in the domestic space and which interrupts, now with more intensity, professional activity.
During the crisis caused by COVID-19, this extra workload became visible. It mainly affected the lives of women, who have historically been relegated to caregiving roles. The boundaries between the professional and the personal have become more blurred and one of the fundamental challenges for companies has been the extreme fatigue of workers, mainly those who work at home with children, with obvious negative effects on work performance and on the well-being of the team in general.
The arrival of a child has an impact on your professional life that isn’t restricted to the present day. However, the growing trend of remote work and the recent difficulties in educating children in a face-to-face manner presents us with a greater challenge.
How Can We Face This Challenge?
Helping remote workers reconcile parenting with their professional life will give us an effective way to build individual and collective well-being in our teams.
What Do We Need to Understand?
From the time a baby arrives, the parents undergo an identity crisis and their focus on status, professional achievement, and/or recognition can quickly collapse under the need to meet the demands of caregiving. It may seem that this crisis has been resolved when we return to work, but sometimes, this is just an illusion that keeps us from returning to our old roles and performing our jobs without difficulties. During the pandemic and with confined children, this frequent distress appears with more force and intensity.
How Can We Reconcile Parenting and Remote Work?
Given that dealing with this distress can be overwhelming, we often allow the wonderful opportunities that parenting presents pass by in order to boost our professional lives and settle for the fatigue of trying to perform.
However, with proper accompaniment—once we’ve accepted this profound process of transformation—we can mourn our former identity. When we’re ready to open up a space for our capacity to care, we can understand that raising is also creating and, therefore, that full parenthood offers us a precious opportunity to connect with our creativity.
Revising the social expectations that we’ve adopted, discovering the commands and rules that prevent us from authentically parenting, listening to and understanding the uniqueness of our children, and addressing their specific needs in an assertive and empathetic manner are all necessary. This will allow us to have powerful, fluid, and critical relationships with our children, which will become a source of inspiration and confidence in our professional life.
At MVT, we have expert psychologists who can accompany your team in discovering these resources, which have clear effects on their well-being and work performance.
Written by Luis Gonzalez - Psychologist expert in systemic consulting for organizations
Talking about mental health in remote work isn’t synonymous with mental illness. While it’s clear that a considerable part of the workforce has a mental health diagnosis of some kind—with depression and anxiety being some of the most common disorders—companies deal with dynamics that promote or jeopardize the mental and emotional wellness of their employees on a daily basis.
In the following guide, you’ll find approaches that will allow you to better understand what we’re referring to when we mention mental and emotional wellbeing in remote work, the effects that this has on companies, tips to identify if your team is going through a rough patch in its mental and emotional wellbeing, and some recommendations and solutions that you can use to start to tackle these issues in your company.
Some Notes on the Mental and Emotional Realms
As a starting point, we should abandon the idea of the mind and emotions as entirely individual traits. This is a transgressive approach that breaks with a tradition of understanding stemming from Descartes himself, which has been treated as common knowledge for centuries.
Let’s consider the case of a company in which, when a conflict arises, the team experiences deep fear and anxiety because, in their experience, talking about problems leads to negative consequences.
We find ourselves with a team that prefers not to talk directly about the conflict under the assumption that this is how they should take care of interpersonal relationships, work stability, and the very balance of the organization, achieving a temporary sensation of tranquility at the same time.
However, the underlying causes behind the conflict are still alive and well, ready to re-emerge in a vicious cycle, risking further exacerbation of the team’s discomfort and potential damage to the company at any time.
According to this example, attending to mental and emotional wellness in remote work doesn’t only involve recognizing one’s own internal world and that of our collaborators but also taking special care of the type of relationships and contexts that we’re building in our interactions with others.
What Effects Does Not Paying Attention to the Mental and Emotional Wellness of Our Teams Have on Remote Work?
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a turning point in our awareness of the importance of mental and emotional wellness in the workplace. Failure to address these issues can have highly problematic consequences for businesses.
When we fail to address these issues, the effects are evident. We begin to detect signs of demotivation and exhaustion, performance suffers, contact with clients diminishes in quality, irritability increases, and relationships within the team deteriorate, all of which have important consequences on the productivity of our businesses.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study, depression and anxiety disorders cost the world economy US$ 1 trillion annually in lost productivity.
With this in mind, addressing our teams’ mental and emotional distress is important. According to the WHO, for every dollar invested in employee mental health, there’s a US$ 4 return in improved health and productivity.
Useful Signs That Your Team May Be Experiencing Mental or Emotional Distress
When we work remotely, our co-workers often work alone, at their own schedule. There are generally few possibilities for interaction, which makes it difficult to recognize if they’re going through a rough patch.
On top of that, mental and emotional discomfort—as well as mental illness—have been stigmatized for a long time. This is why many prefer to hide the symptoms. However, there are some signs that are worth keeping an eye out for:
- First, always keep in mind that there are no general signs. What may seem normal for one person could be a sign of mental and emotional distress for another.
- You should pay attention to any drastic changes in a person’s behavior, the kinds of things that make them seem like strangers. This isn’t only in their interpersonal relationships and their daily habits or customs but also in their work style and quality.
- Although there are no general rules, always think that feeling discouraged, poor performance, a lack of motivation, irritability, constant complaints, and other such behaviors and attitudes can serve as an alarm.
What Stance Should I Adopt Regarding Mental and Emotional Distress in My Work Team?
- Assume the notion of taking charge, from the Italian therapist Gianfranco Cecchin, as an invitation to overcome the discussion of guilt that has done so much damage and which also immobilizes us.
- In a relational approach to mental and emotional wellness, the responsibility for change is shared. Building wellness is, above all, a team task.
- When we’re in charge of teams, our degree of responsibility increases and the need to activate strategies to build relationships that allow us to experience wellness also falls on us.
- There is a basic systemic principle that indicates that the actions we mobilize in one area of the company can have a powerful positive effect on the whole organization.
Recognizing that the organization’s internal resources can sometimes fall short of meeting the challenges we face is an achievement that will open new paths for solutions.
How Can We at MVT Help You?
At MVT, we believe that there are no pre-fabricated solutions. Instead of adapting your organization’s problems or challenges to fit a certain type of methodology, we understand that both we and our solutions have to adapt to your company’s style and needs.
To do this, we have a network of psychologists who are experts in different fields, such as systemic consulting, crisis care, emotion management, positive and happiness psychology, diversity and inclusion, conflict resolution, organizational climate and culture, parenting, and much more.
At MVT, we begin with rigor, using a multidisciplinary approach to understand the challenges of your organization and accompany you along the path that best suits your needs in terms of the mental and emotional wellness of your team according to our PPI model (promotion, prevention, and intervention).
The death of a coworker is an event that no one wants to face, but it does happen. The people we work with form a fundamental part of our lives. We spend our days with them and build important ties that often become lasting personal bonds.
In the following guide, we’ll share the impact that the loss of a coworker has on the work team, the stages of grief, some recommendations that will allow you to facilitate the development of the mourning experience, and a hopeful perspective about death.
The Aftermath of Losing Someone You Were Close To at Work and the Stages of Grief
The death of a team member is difficult to accept. The impact can be so strong that it directly affects the health of the team, triggering deep sadness, guilt, anger, fear, powerlessness, and/or poor performance. These emotions, when prolonged over a long period, can trigger depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and even nervous breakdowns, altered eating habits, sleep disorders, and/or suicide.
To keep these consequences from becoming exacerbated and triggering irreversible consequences, keep in mind that your team has begun to walk an important path, in which they’ll have to go through the following stages of grief:
- Denial: A defense mechanism for facing the pain generated by the loss.
- Confusion: Negative emotions about what wasn’t done, producing constant questions and distorting what’s happening.
- Anger: Feelings of rage about the passing and loss of the loved one.
- Pain and Guilt: Feelings of guilt and suffering about things that were left undone with the person while they were alive.
- Sadness: Deep sadness for the loss suffered. If not dealt with, this could turn into depression.
- Acceptance: Recognition that the person is gone and has left a void.
- Reconstruction: Taking actions that allow life to continue.
These stages of grief, which the deceased person’s coworkers must go through, are more challenging when you also have to continue fulfilling a host of work responsibilities. But this doesn’t mean they should be neglected or interrupted. It’s vitally important to prioritize your efforts to provide the team with an appropriate work environment so that this process can continue in the healthiest possible manner.
How Can I Help My Team Cope With the Death of a Team Member?
- Support spaces: It’s essential to support the team through group counseling that promotes the healthy evolution of the grieving experience. Ideally, this space should be facilitated by a professional who’s an expert in grief.
- Group coaching for the emotional reactions to a significant loss: Emotional guidance will allow the team to have a healthy relationship with their emotions and those of their coworkers in the face of loss. This can be done individually or in groups and with the help of an expert in emotional management.
- Expressive art activities for emotional regulation: Sometimes words aren’t enough to express the pain that occurs as a result of the passing of someone close to you. Art therapy is a very effective mechanism for regulating emotions and channeling the experience of suffering by providing well-being.
- Individual or group consulting spaces: The people closest to the coworker who passed away are often the most affected. It’s important to accompany them through this process with individual or group psychological consulting that allows this important experience to be handled in a more personalized manner.
A Hopeful Look at Death
There can be no doubt that the experience of dealing with the death of a colleague offers you a new way of getting to know your work team. If this is done through group processes, in a responsible and committed way, it will definitely represent an opportunity to grow as individuals—and even more so as a team.
From the moment that each team member finds comfort in others to the moment that the sad reality is accepted as a whole and life goes on, trust, synergy, a sense of union, and the strength of teamwork, in particular, will all grow.
Experiencing death is something that inevitably forces us to confront our fears. But at the same time, it provides an opportunity for us to learn about new dimensions and invites us to overcome our “fear of death” and to discover many ways to reconnect with life.
How Can MVT Help You?
At MVT, we have a network of psychologists who are experts in the mourning process as well as other scenarios that may be affecting your work team. We use a multidisciplinary approach with containment techniques as well as emotional regulation and management that will promote your team’s well-being and allow them to move through the mourning experience in a healthy manner.
If your team is dealing with the death of a coworker, our network of psychologists can help you through this journey.