Just recently on October 10, people around the world celebrated Mental Health Day. Unfortunately, mental health problems can be as invisible as the elephant in the room, making this dimension largely overlooked in many contexts, including business. With as much as US$ 1 trillion being lost every year due to productivity-related mental health problems, it should be plain as day by now: bad mental health is bad for business.
With the pandemic hitting businesses really hard, employees’ mental health is becoming more important. Now more than ever, it is time for leaders to focus on supporting employees’ mental health. Dealing with mental health issues in professional contexts sometimes may begin with the seemingly “little” things. Here are some ways to help employees, especially those who are in need of mental support.
1. Raise awareness
The first step to support employees’ mental health is to address the mental health issues they are having. Supporting workers’ mental wellness can only work if everyone pays attention to this issue seriously. Educate workers on the importance of mental health. Invite experts to talk about this issue. Address existing problems related to employees’ mental state.
2. Check the comms
No, obviously not the server or phone wiring – We need to check how well day-to-day communication is done in the company. According to a study by Dynamic Signal, poor communication is responsible for 80% of the U.S. workers’ stress. If communication is an issue, leaders can take actions such as hosting informal meetings to fix communication between staff members.
3. Reach out
“Hey, I’m Jason, your subordinate. Mentally, I don’t feel good, and I need some help.,” said no one ever. Employees who are having mental health problems will not come forward and tell that they need support. Thus, team leaders can support their members by simply reaching out and asking how they are doing, especially when things with them start to feel offbeat.
4. Monitor their workload
Leaders become who they are for their capability of supervising and managing what team members do, including their workload. Are they handling too many tasks? If so, let them leave non-urgent tasks for a while. If possible, offer some help or coordinate with other team members to share the responsibility. Sharing workload can be a sign that you care for them.
5. Give more constructive criticisms
Criticism is a part of teamwork; there’s no denying it. However, sometimes we focus too much on what we would like to say rather than how we say it. It’s important to remember that the way leaders give criticism can affect team members’ emotion and self-esteem. So, instead of “I don’t like how you’re handling things”, how about “There are some aspects we can improve”?
6. Focus more on achievements
A finding from Mind, a mental health charity in UK, suggests that employees who feel undervalued are more prone to stress and burnout. Therefore, in supporting their employees’ mental health, leader can give more appreciation for employees’ achievements and contributions, even if they work in a rather quirky rhythm or manner. It’s their contribution that matters. After all, we should give credit where credit’s due.
7. Use available resources… or create them
Lastly, in addition to encouragement, support for employees’ mental health can be given by using available resources. If existing resources are not adequate, create them. For instance, Unilever sets a good example with their award-winning app, where employees can set mental goals, check their psychological condition, and gather helpful materials related to their well-being.
In the end, supporting employees’ mental health surely brings benefit to the companies. However, to truly support employees’ mental health, leaders need to think beyond mere productivity or quantitative gain and more about creating a humane space for employees, who have sustained the life of the company as much as the company sustains theirs. This is why seemingly “basic” values such as communication and appreciation are important to give staff members the support they need.
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