Employees need to know that leaders and managers at all levels believe the wellbeing of staff really does matter; that they are committed to providing the resources and doing whatever is necessary to make their workplace a good place to work.
Here are five ways to help ensure that happens:
1. Promote a culture of openness around wellbeing & mental health
As a manager, speak regularly with staff to see how they’re doing – how they’re coping with their work-load, and relationships at work – to identify what may be becoming stressful. At appraisal and supervision meetings too, ask about wellbeing.
You could also establish a regular item in team meetings where whatever else is on the agenda, people also talk about their wellbeing. Simply ask;
- What, if anything, has been stressful recently at work? What might make things easier?
- What, if anything, has contributed to positive wellbeing?
Encouraging and normalising open conversations about mental health and wellbeing can help staff to think more about and better manage their own and their colleagues’ wellbeing and mental health.
2. Inform staff & listen to staff
Keeping staff informed about what’s happening – with their team, in their department and other departments, what the company’s short and long-term goals are etc – is a simple way to build trust, create and maintain a shared purpose.
Confusion, worry and stress occur when employees feel unsure. They’re likely to fill in the gaps with gossip and untruths.
Good communication with employees centers around delivering relevant, timely and consistent information to all. It relies upon everybody being in the loop. Do though, be careful not to overload staff with too much information about anything and everything.
To help get it right, ask people, individually, in team meetings and in staff surveys, how they feel about levels of communication from managers and colleagues.
Good communication is especially important when there are changes in the workplace. Managing any change effectively depends on ensuring employees understand what’s happening and how it may affect them.
Employees need to know:
- Why changes are necessary – what happened to prompt the change – what the goal is.
- What changes will be made, by who, how and when
- How it will impact on employees and their work; what the benefits will be
- What support and resources will be available to help smooth the transitions.
If people are informed and encouraged to be part of the change there is less resistance. So you’ll need to invite and respond to questions, comment and suggestions.
3. Encourage a healthy work/life balance
A recent Mental Health Foundation survey found that:
- One third of respondents feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work
- When working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%)
For most people, working long hours for short periods is manageable. But over time, long hours, few breaks, constant pressure and a poor work/life balance can quickly lead to stress and burnout.
In some workplaces, taking a proper lunch break and leaving work on time may be seen as not being as committed as others who stay behind to work longer. But if your staff aren’t taking proper breaks, chances are it’s because your company culture is not break-friendly.
If, for example, staff know that managers work late or they see managers working through lunch, they may feel like this is expected of them too. But if managers take lunch breaks and leave on time, they’ll be more likely to follow suit.
For breaks to be effective, there needs to be a change of pace that allows your staff to leave their work. If possible, provide a quiet break area. But if you can persuade staff who work indoors to get outside for a bit of fresh air, even better.
Encourage additional breaks. There are stressful periods in everyone’s jobs, so make it clear to employees that if they need to take an extra break for some fresh air, they can and that their lunch break will be not be affected.
It could be that employees regularly work throughout their lunch, come in early or work late because they’ve got too much to do. Managers need to monitor their employees’ workloads to ensure that each person can do their work within their contracted hours. Employees must feel able to speak up if the demands placed on them are too great.
4. Provide opportunities for learning and development
Organisations that promote staff learning and skills development show that they believe that their staff and the work they do are worth investing in.
As an employer or manager you may have certain things you want people to learn, but they might have other ideas. Find out what skills, knowledge and experience they want to develop. Ask how they see it benefiting them, their work and the organisation.
Whatever your line of business, with a bit of research, you’ll probably find a range of training opportunities – workshops and courses – from external trainers or online. Opportunities for learning and development can also be done in-house by using current skills and knowledge of individual staff members to train, coach and mentor other staff and to provide job-shadowing opportunities.
5. Promote positive working relationships
People need to feel psychologically safe. In an organisation with high psychological safety, each person feels safe to take risks and be vulnerable around each other. They feel comfortable expressing themselves and feel safe that no one will undermine them, embarrass or punish anyone else for bringing up problems, for speaking out about concerns, making and / or admitting a mistake, asking a question, asking for help, or offering a new idea.
There needs to be a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. It’s crucial that policies on bullying and harassment are in place and well publicised.
Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment – they’re legally liable for any harassment suffered by their employees. ACAS’s publication ‘Bullying and harassment at work. A guide for managers and employers’ offers practical advice to employers to help prevent bullying and harassment and to deal with any cases that occur – acas.org.uk
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Gill Hasson and Donna Butler, the co-authors of Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Employer and Employees (Capstone, May 2020). Gill is the author of more than 22 books; including the Sunday Times bestseller How To Deal With Difficult People. Donna is the lead psychotherapist and manager of the Health, Employee and Learning (HELP) team at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.
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