Encouraging A Healthy Mind
Over the last few years, mental health awareness, understanding, and acceptance have greatly increased. With the help of national and international mental health awareness events like Bell Let’s Talk Day, World Suicide Prevention Day, Mental Health Awareness Month, and World Mental Health Day, now more than ever, mental health is top of mind.
With more than 1,500 research articles and reports on the topic of workplace mental health, it’s evident that there are healthy and progressive discussions happening on a global scale that aim to explore employee mental health and offer proactive solutions for workplace stressors. As many workplaces begin to shift into a hybrid working model, it’s important to take note of these articles and remember that, for many, change – especially those that impact our daily routines – can be a source of stress and anxiety. As a leader, we know you always look out for your team, but perhaps right now is a good time to be a little more conscious of the mental health and wellbeing of your employees.
A few months ago, our team at West 5 put together a few tips for creating a culture in and out of the office, and while the article speaks to how you can maintain your company culture when many of your employees are still working from home, these practices are also conducive of promoting good mental health on your team.
First, we encourage communication – not just about work – but also regular ‘pulse checks’ to get a sense of how each of your team members is feeling and coping with the many changes or stressors they may be going through.
As a leader, your primary goal when it comes to mental health and wellbeing is to create an open and welcoming work environment where your employees feel comfortable enough to bring their whole selves to work. The most effective way to do that is to make mental health a topic that’s safe to talk about. It’s easy to discuss regular back pains and allergies, or follow up on how an appointment went, but it can be tough to know how to open a conversation about anxieties and challenges. It doesn’t have to be that way though! Yes, mental health is a vulnerable topic, but it’s also one we can all share in. And being even a little vulnerable with your team can help build lasting bonds. If you’re willing to normalize the discussion by sharing your own anxieties and struggles, it will help encourage your team members to do the same, which can become a bridge to creating healthy, open discussions about mental health and wellbeing. It will also show your employees that mental health is important to you, and should be important to them too. We’re all human after all.
If an employee has a cold or flu, you might suggest a specific brand of cold medicine, or recommend that family secret your grandmother swore by, but you wouldn’t try to heal or fix them. You might ask if there’s anything they need you to do or see if they would like to take the rest of the day off. The same goes for mental health. You can offer suggestions for what you like to do when your anxieties keep you awake at night or see if there’s something you can help them with, but you don’t need to try to fix them. If an employee is made to feel like you view them as broken, they may lose confidence in their ability to perform, or worry that you no longer think them capable. If an employee comes to you and shares that they’re struggling, a great approach is to simply listen, tell them you understand, and sympathize with how they must feel. Providing that support allows you to be the kind of leader they need at that moment. Be someone they can come to when they need help or guidance, and demonstrate that you’re there for them and can help them access the resources they may require.
You may also find it beneficial (for you and your employees) to organize and host a mental health workshop on work resilience and healthy coping mechanisms or encourage your employees to sign up for healthy break activities which is a weekly email that details activities to support mental health at work. Finding proactive and educational ways to further your knowledge on mental health and ways to support and nurture it, will only ever help you and your team.
Be patient and kind, and always lend an ear to those who want or need it. Be sure to take care of yourself and your team, and remember, if you or someone you know needs help, there are always services available to you.