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Learn 6 ways managers and leaders can support employees’ wellness.
Ongoing uncertainty can breed anxiety and is currently taking a toll on people’s mental health, including at work.
Prior to the COVID-19 health pandemic, many Queensland public sector agencies had increased their focus on creating mentally healthy workplaces and those efforts are even more important now.
Even though leadership and the way employees are managed are key determinants of employee wellbeing, managers can often feel uncomfortable and concerned about promoting employee wellbeing – for fear they may be ‘overstepping boundaries’ in people’s personal lives.
When you consider it is normal for up to 20% of the Queensland population to experience poor mental health in any 12-month period, it means people’s mental health concerns are already present in your workplace. The most common struggles experienced at work include anxiety, depression, burnout, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Ignoring them doesn’t help and can create adverse impacts like increased absenteeism and turnover or lower levels of employee engagement and productivity. So, what can managers and leaders do to support employees as they face the ongoing stressors of uncertainty?
- Describe your own challenges. Whether mental-health-related or not, it makes you appear human, relatable, and brave. Authentic leadership can cultivate trust and improve employee engagement and performance. Being within a team where it is safe to say you are having a bad day or feeling that you can be yourself and not always ‘happy’ can release pressure for some.
- Model healthy behaviours. Share your own self-care practices, for example it might be your mid-day walk or that you are disconnecting from work emails at a certain time of night or prioritising a staycation so you don’t burn out. Sending emails after 11pm or dialling in when you're on holiday shows you aren’t disconnecting. By role modelling mentally healthy behaviours, you allow your team members to prioritise their own self-care and set healthy boundaries.
- Build a culture of connection through check-ins. Meeting regularly with your employees and maintaining open communication lines creates opportunities to determine if the staff member appears to be overwhelmed or overly stressed. Watch out for any employees that exhibit a sudden change in thinking, behaviour or performance. If you’re worried about an employee who appears to be struggling, it's important to set up a meeting that won't intimidate or frighten them. If you have no idea where to start, consult your agency’s employee assistance program provider and they can talk you through this. Purposefully checking in with each of your direct reports on a regular basis is more critical than ever.
- Listen and show compassion. When someone shares that they’re struggling you won’t always know what to say or do. What’s most important is to make space to listen and be compassionate. Knowing that you care is the single most important element. It's also important that if you know someone is managing a mental health issue that you ‘see them, not just their anxiety’ because there’s a lot more to them.
- Offer flexibility and be inclusive. Start by being opened to making reasonable accommodations. For example, if the employee needs to take two hours off work each week to visit a counsellor and her schedule can be arranged to allow for those visits, this would likely be a reasonable accommodation that you can make. Or maybe your staff member is challenged as a new parent feeling the need to work all the time. Flexibility can be critical to people's wellbeing and may help your team thrive amid the continued uncertainty.
- Create awareness of available mental health resources. Encourage their use of support options and resources available to them during tricky times. It's worth noting shame and stigma prevent many employees from using their mental health benefits to seek treatment, so normalise the use of those services.
Visit Health and wellbeing for employees for more information.