We live in a culture where stoicism is admired, and vulnerability is shamed – and as a result, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. But with a realisation that it’s perhaps been swept under the rug until now, the topic of mental health has been thrust into the headlines of late. And while that’s helped to release some of the stigmas around this once-taboo subject, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Our awareness and proactiveness around mental health may be growing, but unfortunately, so is the number of people diagnosed with mental health conditions globally. So how can businesses be best prepared to support their staff and foster mental wellbeing in the workplace?
1. Open the lines of communication
Many of us now work from home, which at times, can feel a little lonely and isolating. And with no in-person clues to spot if someone isn’t feeling great, it can be hard to keep tabs on your staff’s mental health. Whether your staff WFH or not, it’s crucial to initiate these conversations, encourage honesty, and ensure they feel safe and supported. Go deeper than simply “how are you doing?” – ask questions about how you can offer support, and really listen to what they’re saying. Whether they open up or not, the most important thing is that they feel the support is there if they need it.
2. Celebrate the wins – big and small
Studies have shown that people who celebrate successes are less stressed, more optimistic, and generally take better care of themselves. Plus, celebrating wins – big or small – can boost motivation and even combat long-term burnout. If your employees achieve something, make them proud – shout them a coffee, leave a note on their desk, or mention their success at your next staff meeting.
3. Build a greater connection
With more and more people working from home or on staggered office days, we’re missing valuable opportunities to actually connect. We all know that a zoom meeting isn’t quite the same as the work culture built in an office or shared workspace, so how can you ensure your staff still feel connected while they’re not physically present? If in-person interactions are off the cards, make sure you have a regular virtual catch-up, simple things like; Friday afternoon Zoom drinks, BYO coffee for Monday morning’s meeting, or connecting online via a team-building game.
4. Get involved with mental health-based charities
Make your support of mental health awareness heard near and far. In supporting mental health organisations, your employees will feel more supported and more inclined to open up about their situations. Plus, by participating in charities like The Pushup Challenge or long-time mental health hero Movember, you’ll build camaraderie and positivity across the workplace.
5. Prepare to flex
In the modern world, work looks different to what it did even a decade ago. The workforce as we knew it has forever changed – and businesses need to keep up. Whether that’s adopting a 4-day work week, allowing workers autonomy over their hours, or offering wellness days to prevent worker burnout. Early adopters of more flexible working conditions have reported significant benefits – like greater staff productivity, better job satisfaction, and fewer absences from work. With a healthier work-life balance, employees have time to prioritise mental health and come to work refreshed.
6. Be a source of resources
Wellness has become one of the most Googled topics of 2022. We have endless access to resources – from wellness apps to self-improvement podcasts and access to professionals like therapists and life coaches. Leverage these in your workplace and give staff ready access to them or implement practices like group yoga or meditation. It’ll boost connection, foster wellness, aid retention, and show your employees that you really care.
7. Promote healthy habits
Do your staff stop for a proper lunch break? Do they really disconnect over the weekend? When was the last time they took a wellness day? If you’re unsure about any of the above, it might be time to review your expectations. With burnout steadily on the rise, businesses need to prioritise employee wellbeing by leading by example and championing healthy habits. Refrain from responding to work emails outside of office hours, encourage the team to clock off early every once and a while, take a full lunch break away from desks, and ensure mental health days are treated just the same as sick days.
8. Offer training and implement new policies
If your leaders feel like they’re treading water when it comes to mental health matters, how will they best support a team? Every employee is different and will need support in different ways, and your leaders should be equipped with the tools to manage this. Make it a priority to train them – provide relevant resources, like mental-health coaching or workshops. Once they’re confident, implement a policy to have weekly, fortnightly, or monthly check-ins with every staff member.
Make workplace wellbeing your priority
Your staff can’t pour from an empty cup. But if they’re not feeling the best, there are things you can do to support them. Prioritising mental health is the best place to start. Initiate the conversation to remove the stigma and normalise the reality that everyone has ups and downs of varying degrees.
If you’re stuck on where to begin, take inspiration from our team at First National – we’ve partnered with EQ Minds to present a workplace wellbeing series – three sessions with leading industry experts to find clarity in life, promote productivity in the workplace, and use sleep as a tool for wellness. An investment in your team’s mental wellbeing is a direct investment in your business – so make it your priority today.