Mental Health Awareness Month Challenge and Activity Ideas for Remote Employees

mental health awareness month achallenge ideas for remote team

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is dedicated to increasing the understanding of the vital role that mental health plays in our overall well-being. For remote-first workplaces, normalizing discussions around mental wellness is especially important.

Isolation and blurred lines between work and personal lives have the potential to significantly impact remote employees’ mental health, and it can be difficult for HR and managers to spot the individuals who need support.

In this article, we’ll be discussing why it’s important for both HR and remote employees to pay attention to mental health and wellness. Plus, we’ll look at some group and individual challenges and activities that can increase awareness around the topic of mental health, have a positive impact on participants and boost overall employee engagement

Why Mental Health Awareness Month is important in the remote workplace

Mental health used to be a bit of a hush-hush subject, but thankfully we’re now in an era where it’s more acceptable to open up and talk about the impact of work-related stress, depression, anxiety, and burnout.

In fact, it’s not only more acceptable but absolutely essential to discuss mental health at the workplace, and to create a culture that provides safety for employees to tend to their mental well-being.

Any dynamic, forward-thinking company that wants to retain its top remote talent needs to invest in mental health initiatives and create a supportive environment to not only discuss, but actively improve the mental wellness of its employees.

This includes initiatives such as providing mental health days, making resources available, and training middle management to spot the early signs of burnout in their teams and give them tools to take action with.

Normalize the discussion of mental health topics

Even though we’re more open about talking to others about our mental health, there’s still a lot of stigma and silence when it comes to discussing mental challenges in the workplace. It can take a lot of courage for an employee to open up about these struggles, as there is often a looming fear that raising an issue or asking for help might cost them their job.

According to a US workplace study, 86% of employees say mental health awareness at work is important to them, but 77% stated they felt that the topic isn’t discussed enough.

58% of employees reported that they weren’t comfortable talking about their mental health at work, even though 47% of them said their job had negatively impacted their mental health in some way.

Working to destigmatize mental health issues makes it easier for employees to speak up about their struggles without any fear of judgment or repercussions, which is vital in remote settings where face-to-face interactions are limited.

Enable leaders and middle managers to promote wellness initiatives 

Encouraging employees to talk about their mental health is a great step towards creating a supportive, inclusive remote culture — but it’s no substitute for taking concrete action to positively impact your workplace.

Leaders and middle managers need to be enabled to promote wellness in order for the total adoption of a culture of wellness across their organization

These initiatives might range from offering extra mental health days, providing access to counselors or mental health coaches, training managers to better recognize signs of mental health struggles, or finding ways to encourage employees to take regular breaks and improve their work-life balance.

Leaders could also turn outwards and share their mental health stories, which can help employees feel more comfortable talking about their own challenges.

By championing these efforts, organizations can help employees feel valued and heard, and give people the crucial support they need to improve and maintain their mental wellness.

Identify employees who need help and support

Prioritizing mental health as an organization enables HR and managers to better recognize employees who are struggling, and provides recourse to all involved to take action as appropriate.

This could look like training on how to recognize early and advanced signs of burnout in individual employees, and a clear process on how to assist the employee in need in a sensitive, tactful, and helpful manner.

Coaching and training managers around how to manage teams as a whole, while prioritizing their mental well-being, can assist in preventing burnout in the long run — as managers directly influence employee workloads and work-life balance practices.

Taking this proactive approach can help ensure employees receive the help they need quickly — whether that’s offering more flexible work arrangements, reducing workloads, or providing access to a mental health professional.

Boost retention rates

WHO-led study found that every $1 that was invested in scaling up treatment for employee depression and anxiety led to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work — pointing to both the health and economic benefits for employers who prioritize mental well-being in their workplaces.

In remote settings, workplace dissatisfaction can cause employees to think about “quiet quitting” or resigning — so organizations who create a culture that focuses on the mental well-being of their employees can also increase their chances of retaining staff.

With an estimated 12 billion working days being lost every year due to depression and anxiety in the global workplace, at a cost of $1 trillion USD per year in lost productivity, any initiatives that focus on mental health can be a win for employee engagement and loyalty — all of which contribute to your company’s bottom line.

Mental Health Awareness Month challenges & activities

The goal of these wellness challenges and activities is to help you promote the importance of mental health, and take steps to actively improve wellness across your workplace. Mental Health Awareness Month makes a great starting point to launch these initiatives!

When you’re rolling out challenges, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on fun! You’re trying to boost mental health, not make it feel like more work.
  • Keep it inclusive and accessible. These challenges aren’t about who lifts the heaviest weights. Your activities should be designed so that everyone feels they can jump in, no matter where they live, how old they are, or whatever abilities or disabilities they might have.
  • Mix it up. Your employees are a diverse and interesting bunch of people. Make sure the challenges and activities you launch cater to a wide variety of tastes and needs so you get maximum engagement across your workplace.
  • Keep it short. Employees will be more inclined to participate in activities that don’t take up hours of time. Even a 7-minute break is enough to give their mental health a lift!

Here are some popular group and individual challenges you can use as inspiration for your own initiatives.

Mental Health-focused challenges and activities for employees

Bright Breaks wellness challenges

If you’re looking for a way to engage your remote or hybrid workforce in an inclusive wellness challenge, you’ve found an easy and effective solution with Bright Breaks.

With Bright Breaks, you have the ability to run a challenge that’s open to the entire organization, for one section of the organization only, or for teams to compete against each other by accumulating the most points.

How are points earned? By taking short well-being breaks on the Bright Breaks platform. Live 7-minute sessions, plus an on-demand library of over 500 videos, cover a wide range of wellness topics and activities that are designed to appeal to employees with varied interests at all ability levels.

The sessions themselves are optimized for people to participate in home or in-office environments, both standing and sitting. No weights or special equipment are required.

Employees earn points by engaging in expert-led 7-minute wellness breaks, including:

  • Informative nutrition and mini keynote sessions
  • Invigorating movement breaks and stretch breaks
  • Grounding breathing exercises, journaling and meditation sessions

Team-based Bright Breaks challenges

Ignite the friendly spirit of competition while engaging your teams in wellness activities! Challenge teams to accumulate the most points by taking Bright Breaks, and be crowned the winners.

Teams can be assigned at random to encourage cross-communication and break down silos, or teams can be divided by department to strengthen their existing team bonding.

We’ll give you fair warning that team competition can get heated! So with this in mind, there are limits in place to prevent people from getting too carried away and distracted from their work.

Award the team who earns the most points by giving each member of the winning team whatever incentives are available to you. Gift cards, company swag, a virtual team lunch (accompanied by UberEats gift cards,) and of course bragging rights are all excellent choices!

Individual participation Bright Breaks challenges

If your goal is to encourage employees to adopt wellness habits as a personal journey without the intensity of group competition, then an individual-based challenge on Bright Breaks is the answer.

Participants earn points on an individual basis by participating in breaks on Bright Breaks as described above. A leaderboard that’s visible to the organization will feature each participant, as well as how many points they’ve accumulated during the challenge.

In this style of challenge, we don’t recommend awarding the employee who earns the most points. Instead, we strongly encourage a raffle or draw method of determining winners. For example, ask participants to earn at least 5 points by taking Bright Breaks over a two-week period for a chance to win a prize.

By using the raffle method and asking employees to reach an attainable goal to be entered into the raffle to win a prize, you’re encouraging broader participation in the challenge across the organization — instead of rewarding winners that already have strong wellness routines or a strong competitive nature.

As for prizes, raffling off gift cards, company swag, or awarding a day or half day of PTO and physical prizes are all great ideas!

Add bonus points to your Bright Breaks challenges

Give your employees the opportunity to earn more points in Bright Breaks challenges by placing a special focus on a type of wellness content to engage with, or to encourage team connection.

For example, you could award double the points for meditation, mindfulness, and breath-work breaks in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you’d like to encourage more connection, you can also double up points for participating on live breaks with co-workers.

Mental well-being Bingo

Dust off your long-forgotten Bingo skills from childhood and create a fun Bingo game for your employees to join in on.

The idea behind this is that it tasks employees with completing things in their daily lives that positively contribute to their mental health. The tasks could range from something as simple as taking a walk to engaging with a workplace health benefit.

Setting up self-reporting for your Bingo initiative through a dedicated internal comms channel on Slack, Viva Engage, or similar adds another fun and engaging layer to the game.

Here’s how it can work:

  1. Come up with a list of mental health-boosting tasks for the Bingo scorecards
    1. If you want 3 in row, you’ll need at least 9 tasks, if you’re aiming for 5 in a row, you’ll need 25 tasks
    2. Think of tasks that cover a wide range of activities such as taking a quick walk or meditating. This is also a great opportunity to weave in tasks related to their health benefits such as locating EAP information, using their wellness stipend or taking a break on Bright Breaks
  2. Use a tool like Canva to create a single bingo scorecard that everyone can follow, OR you can use a Bingo card generating tool to create unique cards for each player.
  3. Set up a communication channel, or use an existing one like your organization’s wellness Slack channel where employees can self-report completing their Bingo tasks
  4. Award a first prize for whoever achieves (and reports) a full row first and/or a draw for a prize out of everyone who completes a row.

Group gratitude sessions 

Simply stopping to take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for can be a powerful mental health booster. It can increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing, and reduce the stuff we want less of — like anxiety, anger, and depression.

Making time for regular group gratitude, bringing in a speaker to talk about the power of practicing gratitude, or scheduling a gratitude list-making session in Bright Breaks just for your organization, can all help your employees feel more positive about daily life and work.

Art therapy

Art therapy engages the mind in a way that’s different from talking or writing, and it can be helpful for boosting self-esteem, building emotional resilience, and reducing stress.

Companies like Doodle Breaks specialize in expert-led art therapy for remote workplaces, helping your employees bring their attention to the present moment, lower stress, and boost concentration and creativity.

Best of all, no artistic ability is required! So whether your employees are secret Van Goghs, or whether their drawing skills are so bad that even stick figures get embarrassed, everyone can enjoy the positive power of art therapy.

Coaching and workshops 

Bringing in a professional keynote speaker, or running group workshops to discuss the importance of mental health is a great way to engage your teams and kick off the conversation for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Experts like Jot Living specialize in workplace health and wellness. They offer interactive group workshops for up to 500 people designed to help employees better manage their health and well-being, plus group coaching sessions and Mindful Minutes which are 30-minute breaks that include relaxation techniques, meditations and visualizations.

How to track the success of your Mental Health Month challenges and activities

As with all your wellness initiatives, it’s important to measure the success of your mental health challenges and activities to see if they’ve had an impact on the well-being of individuals, and a flow-on effect for productivity and retention.

If you’re using a wellness solution like Bright Breaks, tracking engagement and leaderboards are baked right into the platform. When you’re running more manual challenges and other activities, you’ll need to look at things like:

  • Number of challenge participants
  • Employee feedback survey results
  • Number of coaching and keynote session attendees
  • Engagement in wellness-themed Slack or Viva Engage channels

In summary

Prioritizing mental health doesn’t stop at the end of Mental Health Awareness Month. Improving and maintaining mental wellness is an ongoing process for both HR leaders and employees.

A positive mental health culture means championing a safe, supportive environment to show employees that they matter, and providing the resources, education, activities, and initiatives they need to mentally thrive in their remote roles.

Bright Breaks can help support mental wellness for remote teams and individuals, with 7-minute live and on-demand video breaks and challenges.

With hundreds of activities like gratitude sessions, yoga, meditation, and stretching, our breaks are designed to improve both the mental and physical well-being of your employees.

Learn more about how we can help you achieve your HR wellness goals.

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