What can managers do to support employee mental well-being?
Managers are the pulse of the organisation. Working closely with all means they can be one of the first few people who can pick up on changes in their teammates' mental wellbeing and will be imperative in supporting them through it.
Towards this purpose, it may be important to help managers identify signs of an upcoming mental health difficulty.
“Some signs managers can look out for would be changed in their teammates' concentration levels, changes in their social interaction patterns, changes in their energy levels, difficulty in meeting deadlines in a person who is generally on time, restlessness, and a volatile mood,” says Richa Singh, CEO & co-founder of emotional wellness platform YourDOST.
When such changes are noted, it is crucial that managers set some time apart to have a one-on-one meeting with the team member concerned and express concerns about their mental health.
“For instance, managers may say something along the lines of 'I noticed that you seem low lately/ you aren’t interacting with others as you would earlier, I’m a bit worried about your well-being, how can I help you',” Singh suggests.
An effective well-being programme is a feasible option to consider as managers to ensure a holistic wellness routine that your teammates can start imbibing.
Singh says one of the most critical aspects of designing such a programme is engaging the biggest influencers of any organisation, its leaders and managers.
Understanding the issue is one thing, but knowing how to promote positive well-being and support those experiencing mental health issues is another. Therefore, she suggests:
- It is essential to ensure the engagement of management in the different phases of planning, designing and delivering well-being programmes. Some measures are to make adjustments by scheduling offline one-on-ones, aligning them with the tasks they would enjoy doing, invest in up-to-date management training, and committing to social activities like team building activities, office events and get-togethers.
- Delegate wherever needed, especially if they have a bandwidth crunch, by hosting regular one-on-ones. This gives them the opportunity and space to explore this challenge with you and conclude on amiable solutions.
- Additionally, connect with them to proper channels to seek professional support. This way, create a safe space for the employees to talk about their concerns instead of keeping them to themselves. Being sensitive about the concerns the employees/teammates share, and not dismiss them by saying it is just a phase.
- Managers should also be trained to understand the intensity or the impact of poor mental health status on their employees.
- By being available to their team members, being more empathetic, ensuring a psychologically safe space to vent their emotions and concerns, aligning mental health awareness programmes and making facilities for seeking therapy.
- Singh says if the team member does open up, listen to them without judgment, and see if you can make any accommodations at the workplace such as time off or relaxed deadlines/targets and so on.
If the issue seems to persist i.e., a team member has been feeling this way for more than 1 or 2 weeks with little to no improvement, then encourage them to seek psychological help. One thing that can be useful here is if managers have themselves had psychological help - mention this to the team member to normalise seeking help.
It may also be important to regularly check in with team members, weekly or fortnightly and connect on a personal level, for a few minutes keeping aside work-related tasks and focusing solely on getting to know each team member. This is a proactive way of ensuring well-being as connections are a fundamental human need and have been linked to lower levels of depression, anxiety and higher rates of self-esteem.
Singh says if you're in a position of power to effect policy changes in your company, ask for them. “See if you can make changes to policies which can reduce the stress your team members might be experiencing and work on advocating for these changes.”
Lastly, but most importantly prioritise your mental well-being, and lead by example, notes Singh.
“Often we forget ourselves while we are involved in caring for others. Make sure you take breaks in your work day and have a good work-life integration, and that you seek help when you need it. Bring this up in conversations with your team members and encourage them to do the same."