Modern People Operations For Remote Working

Dealing With A Stressed-Out Remote Co-worker


Help your colleagues without compromising yourself.

These are troubling times.  Everyone has added stress on them. 

Learning new roles, new ways of communicating, navigating new organisational structures, and learning how to work from home.  You may have family in the house with you, or worse, having to home school as well as work.

Add to that the constant barrage of COVID-19 news, protests, declining market… you name it, 2020 has put the squeeze on everyone.

Anxieties were once quickly dispersed within a centralized office situation or managed accordingly by a supervisor.  But now, things are different.

Frustrations are mounting.  Messages are getting shorter and snappier, and you can tell someone in the team is heading for a virtual meltdown.

If you can see it coming, don’t just sit back and tell everyone else to take cover.

But…please don’t tell them to calm down. It’s like adding a jerry can of diesel onto the fire.

Here are a few ideas to help show your colleague you understand what they are going through.  Even though it is over virtual communication.

Give them some space.  Suggest they turn off their instant messaging immediately and let them know you are there for a chat after work if they need to vent.

Show you are listening.

What they really need is to be shown they are heard.  How do you do that?  You listen.  Paraphrase what they have said. Use nods and fillers, such as yep…..uh, I get it, I hear you.

Don’t talk over them, give them the time to unload. 

Asking questions can also help. Make sure they are ones that respond directly to what they are saying. Don’t go off on a tangent, just because you are bored with the venting. 

You may also use silence to facilitate listening.  Giving the co-worker real space to express all their thoughts.


This is a soft skill that is worth learning for all your communication.  Being able to express empathy for another person shows them you understand their pain.  To show compassion, you can use phrases such as:-

Offer to help

…but don’t take over and assume their responsibilities. It’s not your role to save them.

Sometimes you can’t do anything, but the offer is heard.  It is a form of support.  How can I help you right now?  It shows you are giving them attention and support.


That is right, offer to restore the calmness through breathing after they have vented.

Your co-worker may think you are entirely daft, but coach them through three deep breaths with big sighs at the end to release the tension.  It may give them a bit of a laugh, which is also good for relieving tension.

Take note – if your co-worker is not responding to your help, do what you would do in any office situation.  Suggest they take this issue to their immediate team leader or someone else who they trust. Don’t let these frustrations build up! 

Remember, a lot of people don’t have the necessary supports at home and are struggling with the lack of human contact and connection.

Let us know what you think about helping your colleagues get through the tough times online. 

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