Mental Health Jan, 2023

Where do employers begin with supporting the mental health of their workforce?

By Michael Bowden | Share:

Here’s the conundrum: employers have long been extremely well placed to support the mental health of their workforce. However, identifying when an employee requires this help is arguably one of the biggest challenges for anyone attempting to provide support.

This might explain why according to the CIPD health and wellbeing survey at work (2022), only 38% of HR staff think managers in their organisation are confident enough to have conversations around mental health and signpost to support.

Though efforts to break down these barriers to opening up about your mental health have taken big strides in recent times, it’s still surrounded with damaging stigma. As a result we’re now in a time where people are experiencing more instances of poor mental health than ever before.

Yet if employers were able to prioritise bridging that gap to enable their HR staff to feel confident approaching supporting the mental wellbeing of staff, imagine how much positive impact they could have on their workforce.

Where do you begin with tackling such a mammoth task? Thankfully the days of authoritarian and dictatorial leadership are gradually becoming a thing of the past as HR professionals have recognised it simply doesn’t benefit teams. This is already a very positive stride for employee general happiness and wellbeing at work.

There are various abstract tropes thrown around about the importance of conscious and creative leadership but when broken down it comes quite simply down to leaders who genuinely care and understand their staff and displaying some if not all of the following traits:

  • Skilled in empathy and compassion
  • Highly and consistently supportive
  • Aware of current issues impacting staff
  • Flexibility
  • Inclusivity

In a recent article by HR Grapevine, they took this one step further by identifying what leadership styles will help build an open and inclusive culture in the workplace.

Leading by example

It generally goes without saying that leaders set the tone of an organisation. The pandemic certainly offered a great training ground for this as numerous business owners showed their vulnerabilities and encouraged employees to set boundaries and create safe spaces.

Consultative leadership

Also known as participatory leadership, this is where managers focus on canvassing their staff to help guide their decisions. Gaining buy-in colleagues when making decisions, especially those that affect the workplace, is a great way to engage and inspire colleagues. Participative leadership in frontline workplaces has also been linked to improved employee thriving and helping behaviours and greater coping skills in times of stress.

Being people-centred

It’s becoming more and more common for business leaders to put their teams at the centre of what they do. In the same HR Grapevine article Dr Lynne Green, a consultant clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer, Kooth makes an excellent point:

Human-centred leaders focus on teams as well as tasks. It’s about understanding what makes people thrive, and valuing each individual’s opinions, needs, and feelings. At the core of this is compassion and empathy, where leaders have to dig deeper to truly understand a person and how to support them emotionally.

And the science backs this up, according to research by The Potential Project, compassion and wisdom in leaders yields 20% higher performance and 65% lower burnout in teams.

Clear Communication

According to Gallup, 74% of employees feel they miss out on vital company information and news. Improving internal communication, clearly communicating role responsibilities, changes happening in the workplace, or even about not knowing the answer have shown to increase employee happiness and overall performance. Similarly if employees aren’t sure what is available to them, or know where to go for help, it may leave them feeling disconnected, confused, and unsupported.

Safety specific leadership

Transformational leadership is defined as inspiring and motivating employees to embody change and this helps develop a positive culture where employees feel supported and confident in a changeable environment.

Safety specific transformational leadership focuses on inspiring colleagues to quite simply be as safe as possible at work and as a result has been linked to enhanced psychological wellbeing amongst workforces.

Leaders who show consideration for the health of employees, canvass staff for input on how to improve safety, and go extra miles to ensure the physical and mental health of employees can:

  • Help reduce the overall risk felt in the workplace
  • Encourage and empower employees to be autonomous
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships and trust within teams
  • This helps build strong foundations for employee psychological wellbeing.

Who is your certified Mental Health First Aider?

You’ve likely already got your nominated fire wardens and a trained first aider in your business but what about your Mental Health First Aider?

In the last 3 years Mental Health First Aid England have trained 77,000 certified Mental Health First Aiders in a whole host of organisations.

This uptick in businesses investing in training for their team to support the mental health of their colleagues is another positive stride towards greater employee mental wellbeing.

If you’d like further bespoke resources on how you can ensure you’re doing everything you can to support the mental wellbeing of your staff, we’ve had a good experience with companies like Working Mindset.

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