Mental health in the workplace: How management need to lead by example
Testing times for all, but everyone needs to look after their mental health, says Marianne Page.
On my way to a meeting recently I looked up over the sea of expressionless commuters (of which I was one) and saw a Billboard from the investors in people: ‘One in four people suffer anxiety because of work. Make work better.’
It feels like there’s a shift in our working lives towards the awareness of our teams’ mental health. This is welcome and something long overdue. If there is anything we can do as responsible employers and managers, it’s to get behind this movement.
The rate that technology has progressed has sped up the flow of our working lives and it’s incredibly overwhelming - especially if you suffer with anxiety or depression. The sensory overload and pressure is immense. I know you’ll agree when I say that inboxes can cause a very quick descent into panic and overwhelm. So how can we support and protect our workforce and ourselves?
Communicate with your team and ask them what they would like, what they need...and act on it!
There are some who retreat and care for themselves. Who feel able and supported enough to take a mental health day and return invigorated. There are others who push the pressure down and carry on and on and on, working when they should be resting, and then who finally acknowledge that they need time and have to take longer to recover.
I believe we need to foster a working culture of openness. Our team are our everything and if the environment we put them in is detrimental to their health and wellbeing, we need to listen to them and make changes.
Communicate with your team and ask them what they would like, what they need...and act on it! This open door of communication around mental health can only be a positive thing. Sharing and listening helps those who feel they would perhaps be judged to feel more included and supported.
Another way to support your team is to make performance reviews a regular and scheduled event. This will reduce the stigma and stress surrounding these. Ask for their feedback on you as a manager and make it a conversation rather than an interview.
Our people are not machines and it’s important that we don’t forget that they need a break. They need support, they need time to recuperate and deserve our thanks. Make sure that if you’re a target-driven business that you include targets for self-care too. Perhaps to take half a day away from the business doing something positive like volunteering.
So, what can we do in the short term? Create a mental health and sickness policy which supports rather than punishes our teams. Prioritise your team’s wellbeing. Research has shown that active time is incredibly beneficial. Gym memberships, mindfulness and meditation sessions, and time outdoors in nature can all be built into the working pattern.
Make sure that your team switch off after-hours. Being available on mobiles and emails after the working day has finished is detrimental as we never truly switch off and relax. Make sure that you follow your own advice too!
It would be irresponsible of me not to mention the impact of COVID-19 here. Any measures we take for our team’s welfare have to be in line with government recommendations for best practice in this pandemic.
Unfortunately, self-isolation can be a lonely and quiet place, so make sure you reach out to colleagues who are at home. Book casual online catch-up meetings and check in with them, both from a business progress point of view of course, and a personal wellbeing point of view.
In light of this, to calm and help settle those who are concerned or fearful, make sure that your policies are clear and enforced to make your team feel safe at work. The side-effects of people breaking the rules on hygiene and contact here are too great for them not to be taken seriously.
For those anxious people amongst us it’s crucial that the rules are followed.
About the author
Marianne Page founder of Marianne Page Ltd. and author of the bestselling book, Simple Logical Repeatable.
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