As a leader within your organisation, you have a responsibility to supervise and support the health, safety, and wellbeing of your team — and this includes their mental health. But how exactly can you do that, and what would supporting your team’s mental health look like?
The common misconception that managers can’t do much to aid in mental health is not only damaging, but based on an old-school attitude towards supporting employees. As a leader and influencer in your group, you have a lot of power to create a psychologically thriving environment at work!
In a nutshell, your work as a manager in workplace mental health can be classified into 3 broad categories:
1. Prevention — taking early steps to help prevent mental illness in the workplace
Prevention means stopping things before they have the chance to start. Start by learning about how workplace environments can affect mental health (e.g. stress, workload, workplace culture, burnout), as well as the basic symptoms of common mental health issues like Depression, Anxiety, and Substance Abuse. The effect that mental illness can have on peoples’ lives can be incredibly broad, so adjusting the workplace environment to be more mental health-friendly can have a tremendous impact.
You can tell team members you’re always open to talking about mental health issues anyone may be facing, but following through here is the important part. Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with team members that aren’t only about work — ask them how they’re doing personally, if they’re comfortable sharing. You can also organise mental health programs for the whole team that help people learn how to care for their psychological and general health needs.
2. Promotion — actively promoting mental wellbeing and awareness
Promoting mental wellbeing should be a core value for every team. Take the lead in talking about how mental health issues have impacted you personally if you’re comfortable, as it can help others feel more secure and safe about their own journeys. You can assist team members by helping them to learn more about mental illness and its symptoms by providing resources or organising programs, as well.
Remember, as a leader in the workplace, you can set precedents. Set a good example by maintaining your own healthy work-life balance to give your team the confidence to do the same, and set rules and boundaries for healthy communication. Active & Thriving’s Mentally Healthy Leaders program focuses on doing exactly that; helping leaders build their own capabilities as resilient, compassionate and mentally thriving individuals who can uphold great leadership qualities while managing a team.
That way, the groundwork has been done so everyone can work towards a culture where diversity and inclusion are highly valued in the team.
3. Early Intervention — provide early support to those with mental illness
Early intervention is about not letting things escalate and intervening at the first warning signs. This means being prepared for scenarios where a team member approaches you to say that they need psychological help — how can you react and support this person in the most effective way?
For best practice, link up with your workplace’s HR, EAP, and/or third-party mental health professionals so that you have a support system that’s already in place when you need it. That way you can be an advocate for your team members who are experiencing mental health issues, and guide them through the process of seeking help if they’re not sure where to go.
For those that are able to continue working, find ways to work collaboratively with them so that they feel supported while at work. If a staff member needs time off, it can be hugely beneficial to work with them on a return-to-work plan that allows for adjustments to work scope, hours, and more.
In these scenarios, it pays to be familiar with your organisation’s protocols on how to manage situations where a team member may have mental health issues. Prepare for crisis situations (if someone is extremely emotionally distressed) by coming up with an action plan as well, so all your bases are covered.
Our recommended method for early intervention is to be clear about the availability of your workplace’s Employee Assistance Program, and make it clear to staff that the confidential service is free and available 24/7, no matter what their struggles are.
Don’t forget, there are many short and informative articles on the Active & Thriving app that go into more detail about these various workplace mental health strategies. We encourage you to continue building your knowledge progressively with our quick insights, because when you’ve got the right tools, you can start feeling more confident about your skills as a leader in building mentally healthy teams.
Want to learn more? Active & Thriving is a workplace wellbeing platform created by healthcare professionals from as little as $1/person/month. Using behaviour change theory, Active & Thriving empowers employees to live healthy and fulfilling lives, making your workplace unstoppable.