Focussing on the Mental Health of your Teams
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 56% of adults have said that their mental health has deteriorated since March 2020, this is on top of the statistics pre-covid-19 highlighting that 60% of individuals will experience a mental health issue at some point during the year. It is clear that we are going to have to live with the impact of covid-19 for a significant period of time and this will have a substantial knock on effect on the mental health of society, with levels of anxiety, stress and depression expected to rise and those already living with mental health problems are facing extra challenges.
Mental health awareness and support is starting to improve within organisations, but there is still so much more to be done to break down the stigmas relating to mental health and to truly foster a culture that proactively supports those employees who are struggling with their mental wellbeing. Here are our thoughts around what your organisation should be considering as part of your broader approach to wellbeing:
Talk, Talk and Talk Some More - Now so more than ever people need to be able to feel comfortable talking about how they are feeling and not fearful of any repercussions. Think about how as leaders you can create an open culture by talking about any personal experience you have had around mental health or encouraging employees to come forward and sharing their experiences and how they are managing their mental wellbeing. Only by discussing mental health regularly and at all levels of your organisation will stigmas start to be broken down.
Support and Up Skill Managers - less than 25% of managers (Deloitte Mental Health and Employees 2020) are trained or feel confident dealing with and talking about mental health. Think about how you can train and up skill your managers so they are confident to have these conversations and be in a position to support their teams and the challenges they may be going through as well as where else can managers access support and resources to help them.
Promote a positive work life balance - working long hours, being expected to be available in evenings and weekends and not taking breaks can all negatively impact our mental health and cause an increase in workplace stress. As leaders, lead by example promoting a positive work life balance by taking a lunch break, taking time out to exercise and consider implementing an email policy where emails are not sent after hours. This reduces the pressure on your team to always have to be available and will allow much needed time for people to relax and switch off outside of work.
Human Connection - building up personal relationships are so important so that employees feel they can have conversations about their mental health and how they are feeling. Regularly check in with and get to know your teams on a personal level and try to do this face to face where individuals may be more likely to open up. Make yourself personally available for your teams to reach out to you when they need to and show empathy when listening to your employees concerns.
Wellbeing Meetings - consider putting in place 1-1 wellbeing meetings which are purely focussed on the individual, how they are feeling and how they are managing. These could be delivered by line managers, HR, wellbeing champions or think about bringing in someone that is independent to do these. The information that you can get from these meetings will be invaluable in developing further ways to support your employees.
Ask for feedback - set up focus groups, meetings or surveys to discuss mental health and wellbeing and understand what other support employees need and how you can continue to develop the wellbeing offer for all those within your organisation.
Flexibility - look at where you can continue to offer flexible working opportunities for your employees, we have proved over the past few months that individuals can work effectively at home and so think how flexible and blended approaches to work can continue. Have conversations with employees individually about how they can work best with their other commitments in their life and manage your teams on their outputs not hours spent at a desk.
Communications of Existing Support - ensure that employees are aware of the support that you have in place and how they access these as well as encouraging them to make use of areas such as Employee Assistance Programmes when needed. Many organisations have some great programmes and initiatives that they deliver but they fail to communicate this effectively to their teams.
Keep Mental Health on the Agenda - very often organisations may support a one off event relating to mental health or run a campaign. Whilst this is positive for raising awareness, mental health and wellbeing more broadly needs to be continuously on the agenda at a senior level and considered throughout all areas of your organisation to ensure a real culture shift.
Have a Strategy - changing a culture will take time and therefore have a mental health strategy in place with goals and SMART objectives identified, including why the organisation is committed to promoting positive mental health, how the organisation will prevent work-related causes of mental ill health, planning of communications, training and initiatives to educate all employees and what support will be put in place.
A focus on supporting mental health and a culture of wellbeing can differentiate your organisation from others, however this has to come from the top and be part of all strategies, policies, communications and the development of managers. Organisations that recognise having an employee first approach and show compassion to their teams through everything they do will lead to a more productive, more resilient and motivated workforce.
If you would like to talk through how else we can support your organisation and your teams please do get in touch with our Director of Wellbeing, Gemma Carter-Morris on firstname.lastname@example.org
Gemma Morris, Director of Wellbeing, Next Steps Consulting