• Scott

on the therapist's couch chatting how to help yourself & team. mental health pt 3 w/Dr Sonia Jaeger

Updated: Mar 8

Mental Health has been a challenge during the pandemic. How can leaders take care of their own mental health, while at the same time, support their team's mental health. Insights from a digital nomad therapist.



Here's the recap...In today's episode, we chatted with Dr Sonia Jaeger, a psychologist, psychotherapist, & digital nomad about mental health in startups. This was a fantastic conversation from the ❤️. We learned the best thing you can do is simply...talk. Dr Jaeger shared her experience both as a long time remote worker & therapist on how companies, leaders, and individuals can help themselves and their teams with any mental health challenges.


This is Part Three of our series on remote compensation. To listen to Part One click here or Part Two here


Full Transcript Below...


Related References


Dr Jaeger's website

Dr Jaeger on Instagram

Dr Jaeger on FB

Location Independent Therapists Community

2021 State of Remote Report








Remote equals freedom (well maybe not during lockdowns)


The biggest value proposition for remote work is the freedom to live the life you choose. For Dr Jaeger & other digital nomads that means traveling to a different country every few months. Whether as part of work/speaking engagements Sonia has throughout the year, the opportunity to explore somewhere new, or travel to see old friends.


For those working from the house, there's the freedom to go for a hike or grab a quick coffee with the spouse. And for the context of this show, to go speak with a mental therapist whenever is convenient. So take advantage of the time and opportunities that can help improve your mental health.


What's the first step to take to get help for mental health challenges?


Simple and something we're hopefully already doing. Start talking. Talk to loved ones, friends, colleagues, and keep expanding out that net. Then look for a mental health professional to speak with. Perhaps your company offers an app or service to employees? If not, you can find someone local or anywhere in the world. Like telehealth, telementalhealth (tongue twister) has made speaking with a professional accessible anywhere and anytime you want. There are great apps that offer this type of service, as well as, a great community of Location Independent Therapists (see link above).


Loneliness continues to the biggest challenge


Though the latest Status of Remote report only had Loneliness as #4, I'm still of the belief it's #1. At the same time, I don't think any reporting or data on remote work the past year is relevant or accurate. Loneliness has always been an issue for remote workers feeling disconnected to their colleagues. That was only made worse with the pandemic and multiple lockdowns across the world. Folks have now been disconnected and isolated from friends and loved ones too. Though many office advocates focus on this point to their argument of needing an office, there is a solution that doesn't require a commute. The tools exist to support this. They may not yet be ideal, and there certainly not being utilized properly. Something I did while at InVision was 5min facetime. Simply DM a colleague across the company each day and ask them if now is good to chat via short video call. Schmooze a little bit and build that person:person connection.


Though for some, loneliness is the biggest need right now. I'm included in this bucket. Prior to Covid, I had a clear separation of work & personal life in my day. I had work time with minimal distractions from family, and then my family time with minimal work distractions. Once the lockdowns rolled in and schools closed, those 2 blocks melted into one. Passwords for iPads, tech support, and similar make it more difficult to focus during that 'work time block.' This specifically has caused the greatest anxiety the past year for Tevi and me.


Team facetime is key 🔑


Every leader must create 2 types of time blocks of time each and every week. The first is time for their team to get together on a video call and just hang out. This isn't about work and has no agenda. It's about team building and engagement time. Play games, do a costume contest, or travel to an interactive virtual destination together. So long as it's over video and not about work it's a great opportunity.


The second, is check-in time with everyone that reports to you. It can be 5 minutes, but must be at least once a week. Talk about yourself, and ask specific questions about them, their families, and anything relevant that past week. The Superbowl, the cold weather, anything.


Build a culture of transparency


Everyone at every level of a company has had a year they'd like to forget. Stress and anxiety have become commonplace for most people, if not everyone. Yet there's still a stigma about sharing one's own troubles and honesty about their mental health. As a leader start sharing your story with your team. If you as the leader are open and share your challenges, you can build that stage where others can feel comfortable getting up there and sharing their own. Create that environment of openness where people feel comfortable talking about their mental health or anything else on their minds.


Don't wait until it's too late


Being proactive vs reactive will always win the day. Whether reducing churn or preventing employee burnout. If you're doing the above properly, you should be able to spot changes in an employee's behavior, feedback, etc. If you do spot these changes simply ask them how they're doing and how they're feeling. Is there anything you can do to help them. Don't wait for there to be a problem or an issue in performance before you jump in.


Scott: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. Thank you for tuning in to today's episode of Leading from Afar. I am Scott Markovits along with Tevi Hirschhorn. Tevi once again, how are we doing today?


Tevi: [00:00:10] I'm doing well, Scott, how are you?


Scott: [00:00:11] Doing good. I'm very happy to see the numbers coming out of Israel. I think we've passed probably about 75% of the country being vaccinated. At least the first shot. So very hopeful and excited that this may finally be finished one day soon.

So very upbeat and excited about that. Today we're going to be doing episode number three of our series on mental health. The first episode was our kickoff between Tevi and I sharing some transparency on our own mental health battles last year. The followup episode released today, Monday, February 15th, we dove into how data tools can provide companies better insight into mental health of their team and how changes to mental health can impact the company's bottom line. Today we're super excited to have. Dr. Sonia Jaeger. Dr. Jaeger is a psychologist and psychotherapist and as an added bonus for us today is a digital nomad.


So she has plenty of experience working remotely. Before telehealth was really cool, like it is today, Dr. Jaeger launched an online therapy platform and does therapy sessions online. Both to allow her own travel around the world, but to help anyone else anywhere in the world.


So as usual, Sonia, do you want to start off by telling us a little bit more about yourself and more specifics about the practice?


Sonia: [00:01:25] Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me. So I'm a French German citizen. I studied psychology in Germany. Did my psychotherapy training and CBT here, then my PhD and then needed a break. So I went on a trip around the world for 10 months and that was six and a half years ago. I've been traveling since. I don't really have a home.

I have one for tax and residents purposes, obviously, but I don't really spend a lot of time there. Even last year with the pandemic I've managed to sleep in something like 23 different beds or so. Only four countries and not as many long flights at all as I usually would have had.


I've been traveling for a long time, and I've been working online for over five years now. So yeah, the travels came first, and then I found a way to transition my work to an online practice and to anyone who is in Germany, where I'm licensed. Per your introduction. I do not actually provide psychotherapy but counseling. Who cares? Clients don't really understand the difference.


I'm a trained psychotherapist, but in Germany I cannot provide psychotherapy online. Licensing is different in different parts of the world. As you probably know the world isn't as ready as we, and some of our clients might be for new ways of working.


Tevi: [00:02:35] Very cool. So as a digital nomad, can you tell us a bit about how your travels have impacted your work as well as your mental health?


Sonia: [00:02:46] Sure. My work, I don't know because I've been doing this for a long time now. So I am very much focused on setting up my workspace and organizing my work around my travels. One of the things I do for example is that I try to not switch side of the world. Like a big amount of time zone differences, more than every six months or so.


So one of the great things about being a digital nomad is that I can stay longer if I'd want to. But I'm actually one of those people who really travels very fast. I rarely stay more than a month or two in a country at a time. I try to alternate between new countries and going back to places that I already know or catching up with friends.


Once you do that for a while, you have obviously friends and family all over the place. There's a lot of reason to travel. To attend weddings, to go to conferences, to do those kinds of things. So their work and travel mix. If I attend a conference somewhere in the world, I would try to stay a month or two around that conference to actually enjoy staying there and discovering the place. In regards to the mental health aspect, I would say I'm one of those people who definitely strive on change. I do enjoy it and it's really good for my mental health. But, like most people, the loneliness aspect and the stress of. I recently noticed that after having a bit of less travel time during the pandemic, I started traveling a bit more recently.


The whole travel planning aspect when you have to find a new Airbnb every week or two. .That's just so much work. Figuring out how to travel and how to do it in a pandemic is even more stressful than at other times. Because you never know whether the flights actually going to leave and what rules may change and all of that.

So that's definitely something I've experienced as well.


Tevi: [00:04:27] It's more about like the uncertainty and not knowing how to deal with the logistics.


Sonia: [00:04:33] Definitely during the pandemic more than at other times. The not knowing whether you can actually go, what test you will need, and where you can get that. Quarantining and how does that work? It's not been exactly the nicest time for travels for sure.


Scott: [00:04:47] It hasn't been the nicest time for much of anything.


Sonia: [00:04:49] Yeah, it's true. It's been a good time for working from home no?


Scott: [00:04:52] That it has been, which is fantastic for us evangelists.


Tevi: [00:04:55] I would disagree. It's not been. I've been working from home for eight years, but I've got five kids at home now. I'm hoping four of them can go back to school tomorrow, but it's been like six weeks or something where we've all just been home.


Sonia: [00:05:05] Yeah, I would agree that it's not been good on an individual level, but I think just with with tele-health, it's been really good in terms of a more bigger picture level. Because obviously a lot more people now understand what this is and how it works and how hard it can be.


It's the same for therapists. So many therapists had to switch to online sessions. So many people who didn't want to do that are very skeptical and never really thought. We were such exotic people before we were like, "How can you do this? How can you build a rapport with a client online? How can you help someone through a crisis on a video call? How is this supposed to work?" And suddenly they're all discovering that it might not be the same but might actually be pretty good. So that's definitely been really interesting.


Scott: [00:05:48] Interesting. So something that Tevi and I spoke about on previous episodes. Historically mental health has had a bit of a stigma. People haven't really been as comfortable opening up about their own mental health and about speaking with a therapist. I personally believe Covid, has blown that idea off its own pedestal. Bringing mental health to the forefront the last year. Everyone is having their own challenges in some way over the last year. Sonia, from your experience for our listeners who maybe now at the point of looking to take their first step of improving their own mental health. Whether it's speaking to a therapist, whether it's going to some online tool. What would be their first best step?


Sonia: [00:06:25] It really depends on who you ask. So it's a tricky one to answer. I think the first step would actually be to talk to the people around you and get some recommendations and see what has worked for them. Just talking with your friends and family about mental health would be the very first step.


I think for most people probably Googling whatever you're experiencing and trying to understand that you're not alone with it. What help is out there. I am the co-founder of a community for location independent therapists. We do have a directory of location independent therapists. With some therapists in different parts of the world. Different working languages.


There are some international therapist directories depending on your language, your place, or your needs. Obviously the app platforms. The typical Talkspace and Better Help if in the English speaking world. Which I would definitely not recommend from a therapist perspective, but from a client perspective, they can have some good advantages. Especially cost-wise. But a lot of people also live in countries where they can actually get help for free from helplines, to counseling, to online therapy. It depends on where you are.


Scott: [00:07:24] Happy to add that directory to the show notes. From what you can share about your clientele, what is the makeup of those remote based clients? Are they digital nomads or people working from home? Executives? Is it people at all different levels?


Sonia: [00:07:38] I would say that about 70 to 80% of my clients are expats. More traditional type of expats or migrants. They usually have multicultural background. Either in the way they grew up, or they moved to a new country, or because then a relationship with someone from a different culture.


That's usually why they seek me out, because I grew up speaking two languages. I work in three different languages. So I bring that to the table. They're usually quite well established professionals. A lot of them do work in an office. Some of them have been working remotely and I do have some digital nomad clients as well. My typical client is a women around 30, who grew up in Germany and has now moved somewhere else, and just wondering what the next step of her life could look like.


Scott: [00:08:23] For those remote workers or digital nomads, what has been the biggest challenge over the past year?


Sonia: [00:08:29] Over the past year. That's an interesting question because the number one thing was loneliness. I don't think that's exactly the same right now. Depending on what your situation is. Like Tevi was saying. if you have five kids at home, loneliness is probably not your main concern right now.


Tevi: [00:08:42] I could go for an hour loneliness.


Sonia: [00:08:44] Actually what happened a lot to my clients at the beginning of the pandemic, especially my digital nomad clients was having to make that decision of staying or going home. If you go home, where is that? So a lot of people had to move back in with their parents or some someone else. Because so many digital nomads don't have a home to go back to.


So where do you go in a crisis wasn't really from a therapist perspective interesting thing to discuss with clients. From my client's perspective, definitely a very stressful time. Especially if you are currently somewhere where, if I don't take this flight, who knows when the next one will exist, right?


If you're not on an island somewhere. So that was a huge thing. For those who went back home, whatever that is. Living in your parents' basement is not exactly the easiest thing once you're past 25 years old or probably even earlier than that. That was a huge thing that we are trying to adapt to being back somewhere.


For most digital nomads, work hasn't changed that much, right? Like we've been working online before most of them. Many people kept working. Obviously some people lost their jobs and that's been really stressful and complicated. The difference between loneliness for those who are alone and staying at home and those who just can't get anything done because they're trying to work plus family plus all of that.


I think that's quite a different experience out there. Even though we're all in this together, but it's quite individual actually. How has it been for you? You've been doing this for a while and as well no?


Scott: [00:10:09] Yeah, I think I have the same challenges Tevi has had. We spoke about it in our kickoff episode. Is there's a separation of my day. It used to be nine to five was work time. It was dedicated to work. Very focused on getting stuff done. After five o'clock the mental shift was, okay, now it's family time. Since the pandemic hit and with multiple lockdowns, the kids being home. There isn't that separation. The kids are all over in the house.


My boys are learning on zoom. So passwords on the iPads, technical support, and then making sure they're motivated to learn. That separation is collapsed and there really isn't that separation. Here's my work focus time and here's my non-work focused time. That's been my biggest challenge to date. That lack of separation.


Like Tevi, I very much look forward to the kids going back to school. I've definitely seen the difference in anxiety levels. My anxiety was through the roof during the first lockdown because of the kids and lack of separation. As soon as they went back to school, I felt the anxiety start to come down and the second lockdown. Kind of riding the wave.


Tevi: [00:11:03] Yeah, a lot of similar feelings. Another way I'd put things as like the lack of resources. In terms of lack of time resources. Because now I have to be full-time parenting and full-time working. The lack of technology resources. I snapped at one point and just bought two extra tablets and upgraded our internet to try and double the speed. Just because having five zooms going at once while I'm trying to work. It was madness. The constant device juggling. Just that feeling of I can't be successful in this scenario. That's a very difficult feeling to, to deal with. We got to give ourselves some slack. Being successful just means that we're making it to the next day, we're still around, and we're somewhat healthy. And that's okay. No one is going to be Ace'ing exams. If they are like, that's just incredible. Let's just give people some credit for that. So that's been my struggle.


Sonia: [00:11:48] I think the other thing that has come up for a lot of people, I don't know if you've experienced that as well, but it's grieving. Grief in all kinds of shapes and forms. In terms of just grieving the old life, the things we miss out on, and the things that were cancelled. Also a lot of people obviously lost loved ones. Whether it's due to the pandemic or not.


I worked with quite a few clients who lost someone even non COVID related, but they couldn't go see them in a hospital. They couldn't say goodbye. They couldn't have a proper funeral and all of that. So there's been a lot of grief this year, last year, for sure.


Tevi: [00:12:18] For sure. I guess coming off of that a question I've got for you is. You mentioned that loneliness was the biggest issue before COVID for people working from home. What have we learned about remote work during COVID? What are the mental health challenges going to be once we've gone back to a somewhat normal, if that'll ever happen, routine.


Sonia: [00:12:36] Honestly I'm really curious to see what it's going to be like. Because now so many businesses and companies really see all the advantages of the remote work. But then also see how many are doing it in a really weird way. Where there's basically less flexibility than there was before and more control of their employees than if they were going to the office. Which I don't think is really what this is about or what it should be about.


So I'm very curious to see how this works and I'm a little bit worried about those who won't have the option of doing it. As much as I'm in favor of more remote work and more flexibility, I do see a lot of clients who really struggled with the working from home. Because it's not what they chose and it's not what maybe is the best for them.

The employees have already said you're going to keep doing this afterwards. Some of my clients are really suffering because they do need that structured workspace and the community of colleagues. Seeing their faces and actually meeting them and all of that. So I do hope that we will learn some good stuff from it.


Whether it's in terms of remote work, tele mental health. There's a lot of great stuff to be learned from this. I can also see a few potential dangers. I'm very curious to see about the loneliness.


It's been so interesting as a digital nomad, who's been doing this for years, to see how many people, friends, and family suddenly were like, "Oh, we can have a zoom call." I'm like, "Okay, we could have had this for years, right?" Like I've been suggesting this for the last six years. This is not a new thing.


I've been doing this with some people and others just discovered this. I do think with some friends, it's going to be easier to keep that up. From watch parties, online games, and all of the things we've been doing. But I do also think that many people are just really looking forward to going back to more in-person.

What about you? Do you have an opinion on this?


Tevi: [00:14:13] I'm not sure, but that's an interesting perspective. I can see that happening where companies realize that they could probably save money by not opening an office. And now people are in a remote environment where they didn't want to. They probably look forward to the office.


So it's funny because it used to be everyone had an office. Before cubicles were invented before the open plan became popular, people had offices. Then when companies realize that they could spin this as a perk. Where it's an open environment and they could save on office space.


A lot of people hated it, but that's the way it is in many offices. So it's interesting to hear that. I think you're probably right. I can see companies that would want to push for remote. Even though employees may not want that. What do you think Scott?


Scott: [00:14:55] I truly don't believe that people want to go back to the office. They want to go back to collaboration. People would be just as happy working from a coffee shop or a restaurant with some friends or people around them. Hearing that noise and having that activity versus people just being imprisoned in their home.


I see that's the biggest challenge. So the office didn't add anything in there besides a central place where you could see people. Open those opportunities of people that work in the same city. Whether it's a co-working space or working together from a coffee shop or doing those in real life opportunities, I think that's great.


It's also something that you mentioned that the tools have he's been there, but no one's really known how to do use them. In your case with zoom and connecting with people. At my time at InVision I launched a five minute FaceTime idea. I'd send somebody a message on Slack saying, "Hey, you available now for five minutes on a zoom call?" At least two or three people every day, I'd get on a five minute call with just to chit chat and schmooze for a few minutes. It was great for me being an extrovert, having the opportunity to talk to somebody every day. Having that serendipitous moment at the coffee machine. I think the opportunities are there, and the tools are there. Whether people know how to use them correctly.


I think that's the biggest challenge. That companies haven't yet figured out how to best implement their tools.


Sonia: [00:16:07] Whether they know how to use them and who doesn't. Because you need someone who takes the initiative.


Those kinds of more informal meetings are usually the first thing to go when times are stressful. That's what people need, especially in stressful times. I had actually a couple of clients telling me just last week, how they have just been really busy at work.


And the first thing that they don't have, they're all working from home. The first thing that is dropped, is the team meeting. The one that's a bit more informal. That's not just project and whatever content, but that's the time when they actually see each other. And when they actually get some visual nonverbal feedback on what's going on. How everyone's doing and all of that. That's obviously a huge issue.


If you are more of an introvert and a bit anxious or socially phobic, you're probably not going to be the one who initiates it and who reaches out to someone else. So having something in place for that, I think is the really crucial.


Tevi: [00:16:57] Very interesting. So we discussed some of the issues with remote, being loneliness as a big one. What do you think are some of the benefits mental health wise to working in a remote environment?


Sonia: [00:17:06] If you're the right type of person for it, I think it's amazing for your mental health. From not having to commute, to more flexibility, to being able to travel, or just to stay at home.


Depending on your work, family, and your private situation, it can be a huge advantage. I see a lot of people with chronic illnesses or with reduced mobility and really profit from that added flexibility.


I think the less stress. The less stress of not having to commute and the less stress of not having to be there at a certain time, if you have that added flexibility. So in the ideal remote work, you can actually be a bit flexible around how you work.

I think it's really great for your mental health. What I see is among the digital nomads is that a lot of people start a new way of living at the same time as they start a new business. Then they end up spending 20 hours a day in front of their laptop in a crappy hostel room. That's usually not the best for your mental illness, right? Or for your physical health as well.


Scott: [00:18:02] 2021 for me, is going to be the year of mental health. That it becomes priority number one for companies. What should companies be thinking about now in terms of their team? What are some things that companies can be doing today to help improve what they're doing for mental health within the team?


Sonia: [00:18:17] I think the very first thing is to be aware of how important it is and not just because it's the new thing to do. And not just because it improves productivity, but also because you actually care about humans. The people working for you and with you. I've been working a lot with businesses in New Zealand where wellbeing and mental health has been a huge thing on their priority list.


The last few years they even have this wellbeing budget. It would be really interesting to look at how they do it and what they do. And I've actually been invited to do some workshops there in businesses. Focused on expert mental health.


I think one of the big things is to really understand what it means to make it a priority and to raise awareness. To give your employees the help they might need. Obviously that's a tricky one to understand what people need, but giving them different options. Someone might just need some information, some awareness raising, some psycho-education, and some people might need one-on-one counseling.


I know businesses who offer a number of sessions. If you do that, then make sure that it's actually not in-house. Because people are not going to reach out to someone who's going to be in the next team meeting or business meeting. One of the things I've seen is that sometimes there's this idea that, yes, we understand mental health is important. So we're going to give everyone the same kind of help. That's usually not what people need. It's more about asking them what they actually need. Listening to them and trying to find the best fit. I don't know if you've seen some good examples in your environment in your work recently?


Tevi: [00:19:44] I can't really say. I got to think about it a little bit.


Sonia: [00:19:47] Have you seen some bad examples? Maybe?


Scott: [00:19:48] I think it's really trying from a leadership perspective, to set the stage. To build a culture of transparency and openness. In a previous call, we've referenced a couple of startup founders who were very vocal about their own mental health on Twitter and other social media. Setting that stage of saying, "Ok, everyone has it. I'm sharing mine." When the person upfront is sharing first, it hopefully creates that environment of comfort. Ok, the CEO and captain of the ship is being open about their own mental health challenges and battles that they've had. It gives me more confidence to be open myself. I've spoken to teams about being very open, and trying to build that culture themselves.


Sonia: [00:20:25] I think that's a really great way to go, right? That kind of fostering that sense of openness and of transparency. Also it goes hand in hand with the idea that having a mental health issue is not going to mean everything's going to have to be different or everything's going to be a huge problem.


Like I think there's this kind of anxiety in leadership that if we open up or if we even allow this conversation to happen then I don't know, the world would end in some way. There's going to be a huge problem, but the reality is that everyone has mental health issues.


If you look at the stats and numbers, it's just pretty much everyone. If you don't have them yet, then it's your partner, your brother, your parents, or someone really close to you. So you're affected by it anyway. Understanding that it doesn't mean that you will lose your job or that you will lose your employee or they won't be able to attend work tomorrow just because you've opened the conversation. I think that's an important thing to understand.


Tevi: [00:21:16] Maybe another word I would use instead of transparency is acceptance. You're working with actual people and mental health is a spectrum. Someone who maybe is prone to depression might be totally fine under many other circumstances, but dealing with COVID or other health issues could trigger an episode of something that just has to be dealt with.


And it's okay to broach the topic. I agree with Scott that it should start with leadership broaching that topic.


Sonia: [00:21:39] That's an interesting question that you're bringing up. Because I would counter, saying that if someone has been dealing with depression for a long time and has had multiple depressive episodes in the past, they might have been better at handling the pandemic than someone who's never dealt with their mental health actively.


Because I think anyone who has been in therapy before the pandemic came, what you already have some certain tools and strategies and things in place. But those who've never really confronted their mental health before or have been aware, it's those that I see more now in counseling and in my private practice. Basically the pandemic has brought up stuff that was just below the surface before. They're usually the ones who have a much harder time reacting to this. This is the kind of first time that they are living through a crisis.


Scott: [00:22:26] Yeah. So what can company leaders do to create and foster that environment of openness? Getting used to transparency to be vocal when people are running a tissues.


Sonia: [00:22:37] Don't wait until the people run into issues or until you notice them, but expect that this is a thing for everyone. So make this very clear from the beginning. Create that space for it, right? Find a way that works for your team and your business to create a space for discussion, conversation, and openness around those topics.

I used to work in a hospital where people could take a day off for mental health reasons. Without having to explain it. Just find small things like that. Make it easier for people to talk about it and to acknowledge the fact that they are doing this.


Give them time to go see their therapist. That's a doctor's appointment. That's an important thing to do. Usually that's going to be during business hours for most people. The same for physical health, right? Make that space for the yoga class, or exercise, or whatever else it is that people are doing.


Tevi: [00:23:27] Very good advice. Do you have a template or advice to leaders on how they can have a one-on-one or discuss issues? You're saying that they should bring it up before their issues, but what's the right way to do that.


Sonia: [00:23:39] If you really start early on making this known that it's okay to do this or that there's a space for that. That starts when you hire someone. How do you hire them? What's the onboarding process? How do you explain more than just the tech stuff?

Do you actually have a conversation with them? Do you explain to them what the values are of your business? What spaces there are for different things. And then when you notice something, just ask them. Like so many people talk to me and tell me, "I noticed my colleague. They seem like something is off with them, but I don't know what, and I don't know if I should approach it or not. If I should ask them and what's going to happen." There's a huge anxiety around basically making it worse by asking the question. Which is just not what's going to happen.


Sure. You might have to handle someone crying and breaking down if it's really a bad situation. But it's not something they haven't been doing every night for the last few nights, probably in bed anyway. So you're not going to make someone aware of their mental health issues by asking a question. You're not going to provoke any new mental health issue by asking a question.


Tevi: [00:24:36] You don't think it's crossing any workplace etiquette, or maybe embarrassing a colleague to discuss that?


Sonia: [00:24:43] You don't have to do it in front of everyone else. You can ask the question in a nice way, right? Like, "I've noticed something seems off or you've seen distracted lately. How are things going?" Just even just knowing what's the situation, especially in the pandemic. What's the home situation of the people you're working with.


Are they struggling? Are they trying to balance five kids at home and a partner who's also working. Just checking in with them and try to see if there's anything you can do to help. Maybe there isn't, but just asking the question is already going to be helpful.


Tevi: [00:25:13] Maybe in a remote environment it's harder to see that about your colleagues. So what would you recommend in terms of manager -employee check-ins or colleague check-ins. How would people make sure that they can spot those issues or help out a colleague?


Sonia: [00:25:29] I'm actually not so sure if it's that hard to spot. If we are a little bit aware and attentive, I think we do spot changes. I think we're just so focused on getting things done and on whatever the work is, that we feel like we don't have time to pause to actually take it in.


So work less and have more conversations, I think is the answer. Especially in remote teams. One of the big things I've noticed recently is that more and more teams are not doing video calls. I do think that seeing someone's face or even just hearing their voice is really important for that.


Turn on the camera. See their faces and notice where they are and what they look like. You will probably notice if they look really tired. And you will notice it a bit earlier then when you notice the mistakes they're making.


Tevi: [00:26:14] Right.


Scott: [00:26:15] I completely agree with that. The idea of trying to mimic that in real life experience, you can't get any closer than video. For audio and text tools, it's obviously not the same. As you said, to see a person's face, to see their mannerisms, to see how they're sitting, and to see that personality that comes through the screen.

I'm totally on board with that answer.


Sonia: [00:26:32] I was just going to say that, because you were asking before. You can ask a question in a very open way. Just making sure that people know that they can come to you or ask them, how are things going? In general, you don't have to be, "So you look a bit weird. Do you have a marital issue right now, right? You don't. I think it's very easy to imagine what you shouldn't be doing. Just think a little bit about how would you like someone to ask you the question? How would it be in a way that you don't feel like you have to tell them everything, but you can if you want to. Even just without having to say anything. If we could change this a little bit, because then I can do whatever I need to. You don't have to go into specifics with someone to actually help them make it a bit better.


Tevi: [00:27:16] Very true.


Scott: [00:27:16] Pretty much all of our conversation has been very focused on how the leader can help their team. The last question I have is, how can remote leaders help themselves? While at the same time with their own mental health challenges, be supportive and helping their team?


Sonia: [00:27:30] I think that most people know what they should be doing. So I think just doing the things that you already know that you should be doing and do a bit more of them. I think we're really good at knowing what might help, but we're not so good at actually following through and doing them.


So making sure that your own mental health is a priority and understanding that it's part of your work to make sure that you can be there for everyone else. And that you can be a good leader. That you can show up for work by showing up for yourself first. I think it's the way to go.


I don't think there's one thing that everyone should be doing. I think that's just such an individual kind of thing. Whatever will help you. The typical learn how to switch off, learn how to have a proper work-life balance, like all of those kinds of things. They are super important.


Also understanding that being there for your team doesn't mean that you have to be the therapist, right? You don't have to take on everyone's issues. You don't have to do too much. I think finding that kind of balance is really important.


Do you have any other things that you were going doing? You've been doing this for a while. Much longer than I have. So how do you do it?


Scott: [00:28:37] I probably do what you're saying. Everyone knows what they need or what they should be doing. Whether it's doing meditation every day. Whether it's going for a walk. Whether it's doing something that helps them. I think, a great place to start.


Tevi: [00:28:51] Yeah. You're totally right. It's. That prioritization is the question of life. Everyone is busy. Has trouble prioritizing their own personal needs, physical, mental health. When things are very busy, it's even harder. Something that has stuck with me for a long time, is a dear friend of mine got married two years ago now. And I was his best man. I was with him and he was running a little bit late to his own wedding. He had all his stuff ready and said, "I'm just going to do a quick run." I was like, Whoa, like your future mother-in-law is going to be like really mad."


He's like, "I gotta run." I was so impressed that he took the forty-five minutes to run. He was a few minutes late, but everyone else was even later. Anyway, he was not the last person at all. He was not late to his wedding. But he took the time and he took care of himself.


He needed to run. I guess that let out some energy and anxiety and helped him relax. That's something that I think back to a lot, and especially now in a time of global crisis. You've got to prioritize your own mental health so that you can help other people.


Sonia: [00:29:48] I think it's a great example because it shows that you actually have to do it.


Because I think what most people do is that they talk about it, that I think about it, that they complete, or that they read another book about how they should be doing it, but they don't actually do the work. Sometimes it's that easy as going, go for that run. Spend less time on the internet. Turn off your phone. That's the very easy basic stuff. I did a thing for a long time where every Sunday I would not use the internet. So from Saturday evening to Monday morning I would turn off the internet.


It was such an impressive experience. First of all, nothing happens when you're not online for a day. You don't miss out on anything. If the world collapses, you will hear about it. You can still be reached because there are still things that you can do. Just a regular phone call.


I started having these moments during the week where I would think, "Oh, I'm going to do this on Sunday because on Sunday I have time." It's silly because I could be doing them right now, but I feel like I don't have time. Because I am distracted or because I have other things I feel like they're urgent. But most of the time they really aren't. That's actually one of the great advantages of being a therapist. Is that part of our training to learn to switch off and to not take our work home. And to have those things in place to create a healthy work life balance. It's something that most people don't have.

It's not part of the everyday training. So I think that's one of the best things, well not the best thing about being a therapist, but definitely a very useful one.


Scott: [00:31:16] That's awesome. Tevi, any last questions?


Tevi: [00:31:19] No thank you for joining us Sonia and sharing your wisdom and insight.


Sonia: [00:31:24] Thank you for having me.


Scott: [00:31:25] It was fantastic. We would love to hear from our listeners. Please share your feedback on how you've been dealing and getting through the pandemic. If you're a leader, what you've been doing with your company? We'd love to hear from you.

So until the next episode, thank you so much, everybody.

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