How to support mental health at work: 7 tips for businesses
When I was asked to write a blog sharing what I’ve learned about supporting colleagues’ mental health in the workplace, the first thing I realised was that this simple request had an adverse effect on my own mental health. I felt the pressure of an (imaginary) expectation, that I would have lots of original and wise tips to share. Obviously, my mind went blank immediately! For about 10 seconds I thought it might be easier just to say I was sick and couldn’t write it. Then I took a deep breath and steadied myself.
According to a recent study by Mind, 21% of the people surveyed said they had called in sick to avoid stressful work. 42% of people said they had considered resigning as a response to workplace stress. These figures may appear staggering but my response to writing this blog shows this is a reality for many.
I think the shift to remote working has made us all more vulnerable to mental health challenges. When you are working on your own, it’s easy to get ‘stuck’ or to overthink simple tasks. We now face day to day challenges and tasks on our own. In a busy office someone would offer advice, talk over the problem with you, or make you laugh. It’s much harder to do that on your own.
Workplace wellbeing is now about supporting people’s emotional wellbeing first. If people don’t feel emotionally fit for work, they won’t have the resources to access and benefit from all the other good initiatives around company culture, so frankly we are wasting our time until we get this bit of the workplace jigsaw right.
So how can we support people to be emotionally fit for work?
This is what I’ve learned as Oban’s Head of People and Culture:
#1: Make sure people have clarity
Provide defined job roles and responsibilities, with clear guidance on expectations. Individuals who are sure of their place in a business and know what the business wants from them are more purposeful and productive than those who feel ambiguity or confusion about their role.
#2: Be available
Have an open-door policy – and live by it. This means making sure all managers are approachable and understand that being available is one of their responsibilities. Everyone must have access to supportive people. Ensure that frameworks are in place to support easy communication.
#3: Create a listening culture
When someone brings us a concern, our nature is to try and resolve things for them. Unfortunately, as we try to think of helpful solutions, we often miss the real message. Taking time to listen attentively to someone is often what’s really needed. Allowing people the space to work through things themselves can sometimes be enough to resolve things. If it isn’t, at least you heard the full story before you started offering advice.
#4: Check in
According to Headspace, 64% of employees don’t feel involved in or enthusiastic about their work. Trying to build employee engagement has become a big industry in itself, but the importance of a check in cannot be overestimated. In an increasingly remote world, relationships have become more transactional. Encourage leaders to spend a few minutes of meeting time chatting with their team. It helps us feel connected and valued. It means we know about important things happening in people’s lives. It gives you context. Scheduling regular check ins (such as virtual coffee breaks) keeps relationships strong.
#5: Offer expert support
Sometimes having a great leadership team with empathetic team members isn’t enough. In those times it’s important to make sure professional support is available. Employee assistance programmes and great healthcare insurance means that people in crisis can get the expert support they need when they need it.
#6: Check out
In a recent survey by Teamstage, over 50% of employees said they stayed at a company because they felt like part of a team. Having a culture that values its employees involves making things about more than just work. Opportunities to get together to celebrate, socialise, train, plan, and build teams, helps take people away from day to day stresses, even for a short time and gives them a chance to rebuild.
#7: Give thanks
We all love to feel noticed and appreciated when we put in extra effort, work hard, or just do things well. When we’ve faced a difficult challenge, taken on more work than usual, or stepped up for something outside our usual remit, a straightforward thank you from your colleagues goes a long way.
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Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.