The importance of mental health is not a new concept. But the way we think and talk about addressing mental illness, and the acknowledgement of just how common it is, has gone through some radical changes. For example, we are just starting to destigmatize the topic of mental health in the workplace as we increasingly grasp the impact it has.
Over the past few years, professional teams around the world have been under constant duress, just trying to stay above water. Your talented team has no doubt donned their brave faces and put their best collective foot forward. Now, it’s time for you as their manager to give back to those who’ve given you their best effort in the worst circumstances.
In this blog, we examine four ways managers can support their team’s mental and emotional well-being. With these four tips, you’ll be better equipped to create and retain a top-performing team, and ultimately make work a healthier and happier place to be.
1. Be Vulnerable
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t dealt with mental health challenges lately. The topic has become even more prevalent in the public consciousness—and rightly so.
While it may be difficult to see a silver lining to the increase in mental health issues, it has been heartening to see a corresponding decrease in the stigma of mental illnesses, especially when organizational leadership steps up to help.
Some ways your leadership team could do so is by producing videos featuring leaders talking about their own mental health—the challenges they feel comfortable sharing, the daily practices they use to stay well, and a reminder of the available resources.
When leaders become mental health champions, they help normalize these common experiences, raise awareness, and create safe spaces for people to be open—when and where they feel comfortable and choose to do so—about their own struggles.
Have you considered the impact you could have in speaking up about your own experiences? This kind of vulnerability is powerful and transformative. Your honesty could encourage other employees to acknowledge their struggle and seek the support they need. And be sure to create opportunities for your anyone to openly discuss the importance of mental health. While you must respect and protect your employees’ privacy—and not everyone is an open book about their mental health—it may be helpful for these high achievers to know their struggles are valid and understood, and for others to learn from their example.
2. Walk the Walk
Managers often give too much of themselves in the name of success for their teams. While the intent behind this is admirable, it can also be detrimental because it means you aren’t taking care of yourself.
If on one hand, you’re encouraging your team to prioritize their mental health, but on the other, you’re powering through issues that need your attention, you’re actually not setting a great example because you’re not practicing what you preach.
Encouraging the behaviors that are most conducive to your team’s mental well-being requires positive reinforcement. Find opportunities to bring up your exercise regime, the fact that you work with a therapist, or simply that you took a break from work to go for a mental health walk.
Merely talking about how everyone needs some time away from work will give your people the permission they need to value their quality of life and take simple steps to improve it.
3. Proactively Check in and Stay in Touch With Your Team
It’s more important than ever for leaders to continually check in with their team. This can be especially crucial at times of high stress, like during the holidays when people are juggling their end of year finances, and family get togethers.
Don’t be shy about these check-ins, either. This isn’t a box to check in a performative way because we said you should. It’s a chance for you to genuinely connect with and positively influence the people who bring your business to life.
With so many people working from home, staying in touch is necessary for you to be aware of your team members’ struggles. Otherwise, remote work makes it more likely that someone will slip through the cracks.
Note that some of the questions you ask should be diplomatic but also not superficial. Be sure to go beyond just “How’s the family?” or “How was your weekend?”
Once you open the lines of communication, actively listen to the response. Give your people time to provide fully formed answers and encourage them to ask questions and be vulnerable with you. Listen to understand rather than to respond. There’s a delicate balance here. You don’t want to be overbearing or suffocating, but you can find the right blend of being available while holding space for whatever comes up.
And remember: You’re not expected to have all the answers at the ready. You might be a leader, but you’re not an oracle. Don’t pressure yourself to immediately “fix” or “bright side” the struggles your people share. What’s essential is that you’re empathetic and provide a safe space for your team to feel seen, heard and supported.
4. Hire More People Who Are Empathetic
You can positively impact your organization by hiring a wide range of personalities and backgrounds. In particular, understand the value that empaths can bring to your teams with their ability to understand their peers’ struggles and support them. Mixing in folks who feel deeply and care deeply means that you’ll cultivate an environment where people feel safe and valued.
At ITAC solutions, we have access to top talent with the soft skills to be champions for prioritizing both business performance and mental and emotional well-being.
If you’re ready to find those people, contact us today.