How managers can help with their team’s mental health
Mental wellbeing in the workplace has been in the spotlight more than ever over the last couple of years. We wanted to focus on the practical, with a focus on line managers.
Many are aware of the need to take care of their team members’ mental wellbeing. But what does this actually look like and how can you have a positive impact on each individual? We’ve put together some top tips below — you can use these as a checklist to get you started.
Work-life balance is one of the most important contributing factors to good mental health, and there are many ways you can support this.
How flexible can you be in terms of how and where employees work? Some people may want the option to work remotely. Some may want to start a little later, to squeeze in an early morning run or drop the kids off to school. Maybe some would like a slightly longer lunch to go to the gym or meditate, with the option to make this up later in the day.
The more you can tailor your working model to employee needs, the better it is for their wellbeing.
At the same time, make sure people are taking proper time off. Annual leave isn’t just for when you’ve booked a holiday — it’s a key part of everybody’s armoury to prevent mental health challenges such as burnout.
Have regular check-ins
Managers should be seen as confidantes, who their team can turn to for non-work problems. One-to-one meetings should be a standard part of every week. That way, you’re creating frequent communication between yourself and your team, even if they’re working remotely. That in turn makes it easier to steer the conversation away from projects and deadlines, towards wellbeing and anything that may be impacting it.
It’s important to ask the question: “Do you feel overstretched at the moment?” This simple act shows employees that they’re genuinely cared about, and not just seen as a resource.
Here are some other questions you should consider asking:
- How do you feel your work/life balance is right now?
- What's one thing we could change about work for you that would help?
- What can I help you with between now and the next time we meet?
- Last time we spoke you said X was a challenge for you; how is that going?
Of course, some employees might not want to discuss any issues they’re having, so it becomes important for you to spot the signs. Mental health issues are far harder to identify than physical problems, but they’re not always invisible. Here are some of the things to keep an eye out for.
- Someone’s tired when at work
- Someone takes more time off than usual (without a clear reason) or shows up constantly late
- Someone’s easily frustrated, gets angry, or responds in an irritated way
- Someone isn’t eating properly
- Someone’s productivity plummets
- Someone stops keeping up with their appearance or has poor hygiene
- Someone stops participating in social activities
Managers have a dual responsibility, to both their team and the business. Make sure you let HR and other senior leaders know what your team is feeding back. Is there anything the business could do better? Do people want a better annual leave allowance? Are there wellbeing benefits that seem popular?
What this also does is show your team that you aren’t just nodding and listening to what they say — you’re actively trying to make a difference.
One of the things that can lead to employee anxiety is the feeling of being out of the loop. This has become more common in the era of remote and hybrid working. By communicating — maybe even over communicating — with your team, you can make them feel connected.
For example, let’s say there’s a big company announcement. Take the time to follow up with your team to get their thoughts and reactions. This is another simple act that can go a long way towards helping.
Don’t make assumptions
It’s easy to jump into problem solving mode — it’s a common part of work. Think of how many job descriptions you see which ask for people to have “good problem solving skills”.
But when it comes to people’s wellbeing, a better approach is to ask what they need.
If a team member is having issues, ask if there’s anything you can do that’ll enable them to look after their mental health better. By doing this instead of assuming, it opens the conversation up a bit more. Remember everybody has their own individual needs and challenges.
Lead by example
Your team's wellbeing starts with you. If you practise what you preach, people will follow.
For example, are you taking your full lunch break, and making sure you don’t work an excess amount of hours? Role model the right behaviours!
Similarly, be open with your team if you need their support. Courageous conversations are super important, and this helps normalise talking about mental health in the workplace.
Finally, are you making use of the wellbeing resources your company provides? At the very least you should be promoting these to them on a regular basis, showing that the company isn’t just ticking a box by having these in place.