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Leading for mental wellbeing starts with great culture and an attention to employee engagement
As a leader, as a business, what are you doing to help to promote mental well-being among your employees?
My question has been prompted by the 25th World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2017 which this year has mental health in the workplace as its theme. The way in which employers approach mental health issues is a topic which regularly comes up for review but it is also one which is still not receiving the publicity which it deserves. Nor are employers in general paying enough attention to mental well-being, an issue which can not only affect those who are immediately affected but also those around them including colleagues, suppliers and customers.
In fact, according to MHFA England, just 24% of line managers have received some form of mental health training; a statistic which perhaps highlights not only the depth of the problem but also helps to explain the lack of support which those with mental issues feel they experience within the workplace. And before we go any further, if you thought you could dismiss the topic of mental well-being as something which only affects a minority; MHFA England also comment that three out of five employees have experienced mental health issues within the last year because of work.
What that statistic goes to show is that not only do line managers require training in dealing mental health issues, they could probably also benefit from building understanding of how not to be the cause of problems in the first place. You may well think that here comes some form of commentary on excessive workloads, a lack of attention to work-life balance, a dictatorial or long hours style of management.
In some ways you would be right as all of these can contribute to levels of stress which are neither productive nor good for the long-term health of the organisation. But sometimes it is the more subtle failures of leadership style which can build up until they become no longer tolerable. I’m thinking here about practices such as poor management of meetings, not providing sufficient information to enable team members to effectively carry out their tasks, failing to respond to communications, or even failing to brief on changes in previously advised plans. Of themselves these may be minor issues but can build up to a level which leaves team members confused and uncertain and unable to productively plan their workload.
So what should line managers do if they are looking to promote mental well-being within the workplace? The NHS resources website was written for the benefit of managers within health services but it also has much to say about leadership within other organisations. Advice comes in two sections covering supporting staff who are experiencing mental health issues and promoting a healthy approach to work. The latter section talks about promoting a healthy and open culture which supports mental well-being and provides advice in respect of engagement and support.
We all have our own individual problems and challenges. Home issues can affect work outlook and vice versa. When we ourselves are under pressure is all too easy for minor lapses in leadership technique to adversely affect those in our team. But leading for mental well-being isn’t rocket science and may not require special training, as long as good employee engagement and culture techniques are prevalent within the organisation. Your people are individuals. Recognising this and treating them as such will go a long way towards engaging in mental well-being.