It’s fair to say this year has been one of extreme uncertainty. Just when we thought the worst was over, suddenly everyone was back working from home while juggling the demands of childcare and homeschooling.
As a result, one in three people* in every Australian workplace is currently experiencing some kind of mental health challenge, making it more important than ever to invest in the mental health and wellbeing of our workforce.
In fact, research shows that mentally healthy employees are more productive and less likely to take time off, so how can we create a mentally healthy workplace?
Whilst we encourage our clients to leverage Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) whenever possible, what if you don’t have EAP? Some simple, practical actions can help you support your employees and build your mentally healthy workforce.
Create connection through check-ins
As a manager within a business, it’s important to make yourself available to your employees, especially those who might be struggling. This could involve intentionally checking in with them on a regular basis to see how they are coping and really listening to their responses.
It goes beyond simply asking ‘How are you?’. Connection focuses instead on asking specific questions about the kind of support employees. This is whilst showing empathy to those who are struggling with their own mental health challenges.
It’s also about recognising and rewarding an employee’s hard work and commitment so that they feel valued and appreciated. This, in turn, helps improve both individual and team morale.
Reduce the stigma and increase awareness
Due to the current pandemic, many of us have experienced some form of mental health challenge. This may have included worry, fatigue and lack of sleep – the commonality of which has helped keep the conversation alive about mental health conditions.
Speaking openly about your own mental health challenges can help reduce the stigma and allows employees to feel comfortable about sharing their own struggles.
Showing empathy and engaging regularly with staff keeps the channels of communication open and the conversation flowing because they feel seen and supported.
Perhaps you could discuss and research mental health support through one of the incredible community organisations such as BeyondBlue?
Is there an opportunity to provide mental health education as part of team development sessions or team meetings?
Could you conduct mental health awareness programs or provide free resources within the workplace?
Engage with your team on what they need and which actions will resonate with them. Personalisation is the key; there is no ‘fix all’ solution.
Offering support and flexible work conditions
Mental illness is the leading cause of sickness absence in Australia. That’s why it’s essential to promote an understanding of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
This could mean offering employees flexible work arrangements based on their circumstances. If employees need to take time off, it’s about giving them the time and space to do so.
Encourage activity breaks
Regular exercise not only boosts self esteem, it also helps increase energy and concentration levels especially while at work. Why not amplify regular activity breaks by organising a step challenge for employees to participate in?
Offering regular mindfulness or meditation opportunities is another great way for employees to enjoy some self-care while giving them the tools and techniques to help manage any mental health challenges they might be experiencing.
These are just some of the simple actions that can be implemented in the workplace to promote mental health. Seed People Consulting is available to discuss Leadership capability in your organisation however if you’d like more information on mental health resources and support, please visit BeyondBlue, Lifeline or The Black Dog Institute.
*Black Dog Institute
Meet the Author – Julia Fiore
Julia has over a decade’s experience as an HR professional across the full range of HR functions including Business Partnering, Recruitment, Leadership Development and HR Projects.
Committed to providing pragmatic, practical and professional HR advice and partnerships, Julia is a passionate change agent in delivering business solutions through high-quality HR practices.
Ready to find out more?
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