While some leaders view their employees’ mental health as a private issue with no bearing on the professional world, the reality is that the pandemic has exacerbated feelings of stress, anxiety, isolation, and depression in working professionals. Avoiding this topic is a risky business move that can lead to lower employee engagement, breakdowns in communication, productivity, and higher attrition rates.
Like it or not, your business’ success is intricately tied to the mental health of your employees. By making your team’s mental health a top priority, you’re putting your business first.
As a leader, here’s what you can do:
Issues can’t be addressed if they’re not communicated. Your first step as a team leader is to get the conversation going and create a safe space to talk about mental health.
One of the easiest things you can do is be honest and transparent with your team; let them know they are not alone. Create a corporate support system where they can share their stressors without consequence.
Although great strides have been made in normalizing the topic of mental health in workplace conversations, it still is a taboo topic at some businesses. So, if you show your employees that mental health is a topic you’re taking seriously and you are making it a focus as a leader, your team will start to feel more comfortable opening up about their needs, and what resources you can provide as an employer.
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Listen and Show Interest:
If your team’s management of its employees' mental health is poor, it’s likely your retention, employee morale, and production rates reflect this.
While not everyone will have mental health-related challenges when it comes to their productivity, it’s important to put yourself in your teams’ shoes.
Listen and show genuine interest when they approach you for guidance, help, and support. Most employees simply need a sounding board and a safe space to talk through their work stressors. As a leader, showing your team that they are supported and not alone in their struggles makes a world of difference.
Stay Focused on Solutions:
When first embracing mental health and its importance in the corporate space, it can be difficult for leaders to walk that line between manager and therapist. Incorporating this into your personal management style will be a bit of a learning curve. Keeping the conversation solution-focused can help you keep professional boundaries in place while keeping your employee’s performance at the center of the conversation.
Remember, when it comes to a mental health first management style, the solution won’t (and shouldn’t) always be adding more mental health days to the PTO calendar. Effective change management might also mean more resources, support, a change in environment/management techniques, or even a daily/weekly check-in.
By speaking to an employee and asking, “How can I best support you?” or, “How can we work together through this?” you are showing your employees that you take their mental health and professional development seriously.
Taking the First Steps
In recent months discourse in the employment world around how mental health affects employees has come to a head. Even though great strides have been making this topic less taboo, stigma still prevents many businesses from having open and honest communication about the topic.
Although it may be intimidating to take the first steps in starting the conversation at your business, if you advocate for the overall wellbeing of your employees, championing and supporting their mental health should come naturally. Remember, when creating a safe space, it is always better to show instead of tell.
By being authentic, listening, and sticking to finding solutions to help your team better manage their stress levels and achieve a healthy work-life balance, you’ll be sure to cultivate a workplace where your employees can thrive.