Most managers reading this will already know the principle at the heart of this article: good employees are worth looking after. And hopefully it’s clear that that doesn’t mean chaining them to their desks and wringing every ounce of productivity out of them. It means supporting them to enjoy their work and their life outside it so that they can give their best while they’re on the job.
It’s no surprise that happy, healthy, engaged employees perform better at their jobs. And mental health forms a key part of employee wellbeing. While some perceive a stigma around the term “mental health”, the reality is that everyone has a state of mental wellbeing, and it should be taken into account just the same way as any other factor in an employee’s wellbeing and performance.
Bringing it together, we’re looking at how you can prioritize your employees’ mental health and help them to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Understand the Value of Fostering Good Mental Health
UK Mental health charity Mind notes that companies in the FTSE 100 which prioritize employee engagement and wellbeing outperform their competitors by 10 percent. Mental health is a key aspect of employee wellbeing and companies that nurture this attitude will enjoy significant benefits. Those investing in promoting mental wellbeing can expect to see an 800% return on investment through reduced absenteeism and presenteeism.
So how do you go about improving the mental health of your employees?
Take Stock of the Current Mental Health Landscape in Your Company
The first step is to understand the mental health of your organization, so that you can identify the factors involved, the current support systems, and what further improvements you can make. While surveying your employees on this needn’t be a formal process, here are some areas we recommend you ask about to ensure you cover all the essentials:
- Workloads – Are they manageable, agreed on, and suitable for employees’ skills and experience? Workload has been found to be one of the most common causes of workplace stress.
- Autonomy – Do employees have a say in how they plan and perform their roles?
- Personal development – Employees with opportunities to grow and learn will be happier and more engaged.
- Management – Do managers treat employees fairly, communicate well, and offer recognition and coaching when necessary?
- Environment – Is your office or workplace generally a positive, welcoming, and friendly community, or are there issues like bullying or low morale?
- Openness – Is mental health part of the agenda? Do people feel comfortable raising issues?
- Support – Do your employees know what support methods are available, and are these sufficient?
- Policies – Are there clear guidelines in place for managing and promoting mental health?
While tackling, or even surveying, a workplace’s mental health single-handedly might seem daunting to managers, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you plan improvements—most mental health charities offer guides to get you started.
Improve Support Networks
Use the results of your survey to identify where employees need more help and what systems aren’t fit to support them properly. Employees should know exactly what to do if they have a problem. This includes who they should take concerns to, where they can find any company policies and guides on dealing with particular issues, and what the next steps are.
Not all employees will want to go to their managers with concerns and so offering alternative ways to get their voices heard is important to ensure that everyone has a channel they feel comfortable with.
Build a Better Teamwork Environment
With common stressors including workload and bullying, building a more collaborative and supportive environment can often help employees’ mental health. Encouraging employees to strengthen interpersonal relationships with their colleagues means they’re more likely to work as a team and help each other out. This will not only improve productivity but make conflict and bullying less likely.
While how you can improve teamwork among your employees is a broad topic in itself, quick tips include:
- Team-building activities.
- Enabling employees with collaboration tools.
- Offering recognition for group efforts.
If employees are working together, they are more likely to share and therefore balance their workloads, ensuring no one person becomes overworked.
Start by Regularly Checking in With Employees
The simplest way to monitor the mental health of individual employees is simply to ask them! Be sure to check in regularly with all your staff members to see how things are going for them at work and at home. Making these conversations regular and part of the everyday will lessen the stigma around talking about mental health problems, and employees will feel more comfortable coming forward when they do have a problem.
It’s important to respect boundaries, too, and there will be some people who just don’t want to bring their personal lives into the workplace at all. Managers need to respect this while at the same time maintaining an open-door policy if the person in question changes their mind and does decide to share something.
Don’t make a big deal of the fact that they’re “finally” talking to you—treat their concerns as you do everyone else’s, to prevent them feeling uncomfortable or angry, and being put off the experience.
Allow More Flexibility
Simply put, one of the most effective ways to encourage people to work well is to allow them to choose when not to. Employees will generally perform better when they’re satisfied that they can adapt their schedule when needed to deal with life outside of work.
Giving employees a say in their working hours is especially helpful for those that work shifts, as they can customize their schedule more, ensuring they’re still managing a healthy lifestyle. Shift working patterns have several negative side effects, and offering employees control can go some way to countering them.
There may be other ways in which their hours are causing stress to an employee or negatively affecting their work-life balance. Even if you can offer total flexibility, a bit of leeway might be all they need to correct issues.
It might be something simple like needing to come in slightly later on certain days so that they can drop their kids off at school or run errands. Or they just want the freedom to choose which days they have off so that they can make social engagements outside of work.
Whatever level of control you are able to give your employees, consider the positive impact these changes could have before dismissing them just because of the increase in admin and possible disruption. Having happier, more productive workers, empowered by these and the other tips given here for prioritizing their mental health, will more than likely pay for itself.