When talking about health in general, many people are quick to assume that what is meant is physical health. The lack of awareness and acknowledgement of mental health is a direct cause of why there is still so much stigma and shame surrounding mental health.
Many are not even aware that mental health is just as important as physical health. And thus it does not come as a surprise when mental health is not discussed openly in the workplace. However, what many fail to realize is that the lack of mental health support and awareness at the workplace is a real and urgent problem that has to be addressed. After all it is reported that the average person spends about one third of their life at work!
And with most of our life spent at work, it is pivotal that more is done in regards to mental health at work. One of the first and most instrumental steps is having a supportive and safe environment, and this usually falls upon the leader. A true leader is empathetic, understanding and knows that they should always have their employees back.
Here are 7 ways leaders can help support their employees’ mental health:
1. Educate yourself and others about mental health
A true leader knows that it is important to be aware of mental health issues at the workplace. It is important that leaders learn about mental health and mental health issues and pass on the knowledge to their employees. This way, leaders can create an environment that is aware and in return is able to spot early signs of mental health decline or even mental health issues such as burnouts, depression, and anxiety.
2. Normalize the conversation
Talking about things makes it easier for others to open up and connect. The stigma surrounding mental health is what prevents so many from talking about it. Therefore, it is important for a leader to initiate conversations about it and make sure that he is creating a safe, non-judgmental environment for anyone to speak up about it.
3. Get to know your employees
By knowing your employees you are giving yourself the knowledge to pick up on any changed behavior that can signal that they have some issues with their mental health. This can either be through talking to them and asking them how they are doing, or even by evaluating their performance. Connecting with your employees will help you put your emotional intelligence skills into use and provide proactive support.
4. Granting mental health leave days
Having mental health leave days shows that you are well aware that taking care of our mental health is important. Mental health leaves can serve as ways to help people deal with burnout or a mental illness. Granting mental health leaves shows that you believe mental health is just as important as physical health, and that it is normal to have them.
5. Providing access to necessary resources
In order for a leader to be able to effectively support their employees’ mental health, strategies and policies have to be put in place. For instance, providing support groups or access to mental health tools, such as mental wellbeing apps or therapy, can be a great way to show your support. Giving mental health lectures and workshops can also be a great way to make mental health part of your organization.
6. Check up on your team frequently
It is not enough to provide your team with the necessary tools, if you are not being there for them. Frequent checkups can go a long way. A simple “how are you today?” can help your employee feel heard and less alone. Knowing how your team is doing mentally and where they are at in life right now can help you know how to support them.
7. Be a role model
You know how the saying goes, practice what you preach! Employees tend to follow in the footsteps of their leaders. If all you do is just preach about the importance of mental health without actually adopting some techniques to improve your mental health, your employees will not follow through. Leaders lead by example. Make sure that you take breaks and be vocal about taking mental health days. This way you are normalizing the conversation and encouraging others to be open about their mental health as well.
In a nutshell, it is important for leaders to support their employees’ overall wellbeing. And in order to do so, the importance of mental health has to be not only recognized but also deeply integrated within the organization.
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