Since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in mental health awareness. While you will find a lot of articles focusing on the damaging effect the pandemic had on mental health, you could argue that the pandemic merely highlighted the severity of the issue across the world.
As a result, we have seen an increase in mental health awareness and a surge in support for people of all ages, from those in school to those in offices. Mental health awareness at work has been particularly impactful and is helping drive positive change for individuals and their families.
Let’s take a look at the importance of mental health awareness in the workplace and how we can equip the leaders for the future.
The Importance of Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Did you know that we spend one third of our lives at work? That equates to over 90,000 hours spent at work over a lifetime!
If your staff doesn’t feel supported at work, this can have a direct impact on their mental health and wellbeing. One of the most important things to remember about mental health conditions is that they don’t stop and start. You take them with you wherever you go. So, whether your employees are at home or in the office, they could be struggling.
As a business leader, whether you’re a director, a manager, or the leader of a team, you have a duty of care to your employees. Just as you should prioritize creating a safe work environment, the mental wellbeing of your employees should be at the top of your list, too.
Let’s take a look at how we can equip leaders effectively in mental health awareness.
1. Provide Mental Health Training Days and Workshops
Just as you would train your staff on how to use new softwares or speak to clients effectively, you should train them in mental health awareness. Although mental health training in the workplace is still a relatively new concept, it is an invaluable tool that provides leaders with the skills they need to better support their staff, create a safe and happy work environment, and provide people-oriented solutions in the workplace.
Mental health training should be offered on a regular basis to help refresh leaders on company policies. Providing mental health training days and workshops can go a long way towards reducing the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health and help promote a company culture of care and support for those who may be struggling.
2. Encourage Leaders to be Drivers of Change
Leadership isn’t just in the job title. Leaders are chosen to lead by example. Organizations of all sizes will have employees who are silently struggling in one way or another. Business leaders need to be aware of this, as awareness is the first step in driving positive change.
Many employees don’t feel the permission from leadership to take a lunch break, enjoy an afternoon off, or partake in flexible work arrangements. Sometimes it’s because they feel judged, other times they feel it’s just not permitted, and it could be because organization leaders are not leading by example.
Encourage your leaders to take regular breaks, step away from their desks at lunch time, widely advertize flexible working, and encourage employees who are prioritizing their mental health.
Letting your team know that it’s okay — healthy, even — to take regular breaks and enjoy time for themselves, gives employees permission to take back some control. So, whether they want to go on a walk at lunch or take time out to visit their therapist, the culture you create should encourage this, not convict it.
3. Promote the Benefits of Taking Time Off
Did you know that more than half of Americans are concerned their employers will judge them if they request leave on the grounds of mental health? This is a huge problem and is causing hundreds and thousands of employees to suffer from worsening symptoms of depression, anxiety, and burnout.
Promoting the benefits of taking time off is a great way to breach this delicate topic and let your team know that it’s okay to take time off when needed. According to Olivia Marcellino, VP of research at LuxuryRehabs.com, “many employers are sympathetic and understanding, especially because you’re actively seeking treatment. Public stigma around treatment-seeking has decreased as our knowledge [around] mental health has progressed.”
Whether your team works predominantly from the office, from home, or are split between the two, it’s important to let them know that taking time off is encouraged. Time off for therapy appointments or even a duvet day is a great way to promote better mental health awareness in the workplace and equip leaders of the future.
4. Equip Leaders with Better Communication Skills
According to Indeed, “effective communication plays an important part in maintaining a healthy workplace culture [...] A culture of open communication fosters a healthy and accepting environment where all employees feel equal and understood.”
Equipping leaders with better communication skills, through training sessions, is essential for a happy, healthy workplace. When your leaders know how to communicate properly, they can build trust with their employees and provide effective support for those who may be struggling with their mental health.
Many people with mental health conditions struggle to open up, particularly with their work colleagues — let alone their managers! However, fostering open and honest communication within the workplace and taking the time to listen to the needs of individuals can go a long way towards building relationships and providing support when it’s needed most.
Equipping leaders with the skills, training, and know-how they need is essential for the promotion of mental health awareness at work. We hope the above points have provided encouragement on how you can equip your leaders for the future and transform your organization for the better.
Are you interested in learning more about how to create healthy work environments for individuals with mental health issues? Check out our Chat & Learn here!