The subject of mental health is getting more attention than ever these days. It’s frequently mentioned in news headlines, usually within the context of how we’re not doing enough for it: not enough funding, not enough resources, not enough care. After all the events of 2020, employee wellbeing in particular has become a vital issue, and pressure is mounting on employers to step up and take responsibility for their employees’ mental health.
But how do we do that? How can we support our employees wellbeing, and our own, mental wellbeing? And why is it so important that we do?
A confident, well-balanced team member is an asset to any business.
As employers, we have a responsibility to take reasonable care for the health and safety of our staff, and this includes mental health. When we prioritise the health of our team, we’re also prioritising the health of our business. Neglecting employee wellbeing, on the other hand, can have measurable consequences.
An employee struggling with poor mental health is more likely to have higher levels of absenteeism. On top of this, mental health struggles impact your ability to focus and to produce good output even whilst present at work. The UK government found that mental health issues cost UK employers between £33 and £42 billion a year in unproductive and absent staff.
Of course, it would be easy for an employer to be dismissive of the idea that work itself is the cause of mental health issues. Everyone faces different challenges in life which often have nothing whatsoever to do with work. However, we must also recognise that work is a big part of people’s lives and identity. We spend a huge percentage of our time at work. Work provides people not only with income but often with a sense of purpose and – hopefully – with feelings of pride and fulfillment.
Whether mental health struggles are caused by, aggravated by, or have nothing to do with an employee’s workplace, you can still help. Building a team of happy and healthy individuals means building the most productive, and profitable, business possible.
You have the power to help yourself.
When I was a young man, some time ago now, I was taught to simply ‘grin and bear it’ whenever I had difficulties. Speaking about one’s worries and stresses wasn’t encouraged. Thankfully, times have changed, and we now understand the harm of just “getting on with it” when we’re struggling with mental health.
As employers, we have to be able to keep ourselves balanced before we’re able to support our clients or our team. It’s incumbent we learn coping strategies to help our own mental wellbeing so we’re better equipped to, in turn, help our employees.
The crucial thing for me was to recognise that we’re all in control of our own minds. It’s within my power to choose what I give attention to and choose what I let pass me by. Buddhist thinking says that thoughts will come and thoughts will go and we can learn to simply observe this process without attachment or judgement. In other words, you don’t have to stop and argue with every dog that barks at you. It’s within your control to simply pass it by.
Learning that I’m in control of my own mind also helped me let go of many of my stresses and anxieties. Fear is created in the brain, meaning fear exists when I think about it and stops when I don’t. As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We can decide to stop letting the fear of what may happen control our lives. If we simply accept that it is how it is, then suffering ends. Pain may still happen, but suffering is optional.
You have the power to help your team.
The skills and tools you adopt to improve your own mental wellbeing can be used to support your employee wellbeing too. Here are some practical steps you can take to help your team.
1. Open up communication about wellbeing in the workplace
Being genuinely interested in your employees’ wellbeing and communicating that interest to them is a good starting point to building a supportive workplace. Communicate to them that you understand the importance of good mental health and be transparent about your efforts to be more conscious and supportive of their struggles whenever you can.
2. Treat everyone as an individual
As human beings, we first and foremost want to be noticed and acknowledged. Taking the time to acknowledge each individual as an individual is important. Our favourite word tends to be our own name. Other favourites are “thank you”, “well done” and good job”. Take the time to acknowledge when something is done well or done right.
When it is not done well or done right. nip it in the bud with an immediate, direct and still supportive conversation with the individual rather than complaining about it to others who have no control over the situation. Structure these conversations using the feedback sandwich method: first tell them the things they do right and well, then talk through what needs to be improved, and finish with something else they did right or can continue building upon.
3. Build support into your culture
Take your support of employee wellbeing from just words to clear, actionable processes. When prioritising wellbeing is built into the way you do business or your company culture, your employees are that much more likely to prioritise it themselves. Some ways you can do this are:
Creating a process for how an employee can approach their manager to discuss both personal and work challenges. Have clear signposts for how, when, and to whom employees can talk about their struggles and feel confident they’ll get support.
Encouraging team members to take breaks away from their work to do something genuinely beneficial for their mental wellbeing, like drinking water, eating fruit, getting some fresh air, learning meditation and breathing techniques or reading a chapter in a motivational book. You can even encourage people to share what they did on these breaks with the rest of the team, and be vocal yourself about what you do to take care of your wellbeing. When employees see their leader taking these steps, they’re that much more likely to follow suit.
Curating your physical work environment so it feels more positive, like changing the color scheme of a particular room, setting aside time each week for socialisation and team bonding, or hanging motivational or humorous signs around the office (even if they have to be away from the view of clients).
Building a process for when help is required beyond what you’re able to offer. Make sure you have a directory of resources for when an employee needs more support than you can provide, and make this visible to your team so they know it’s there for them.
4. Provide tips and training for how employees can support themselves
On top of providing your support as an employer, you can also give your team tools and skills they can use to improve their wellbeing themselves. At Armadillo, we provide training not just focused on technical skills and abilities but also on ways your team can feel more confident and equipped in the workplace. An employee that learns to believe in themselves will never have to fear what comes tomorrow because they’ll always feel confident they can handle it.
You can share our Seven Tips for Having a Better Day and explain how their wellbeing is helpful to themselves, to their colleagues, to the business and to the world at large. And if you’re ready to make you and your employee wellbeing a priority check out the Armadillo wellness program. Included with an Armadillo membership you have all the support you need.