World Psychological Well being Day: How enterprise leaders can take care of themselves and their employees
While it is easy to point out the many bad things that have been caused by the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, one positive thing is that it has fueled the discussion about mental health and wellbeing. This is important because Employees and managers have both suffered in the past 18 months or so. So, with World Mental Health Day approaching (October 10th), we looked at how leaders can look after themselves and their employees.
What are currently the greatest challenges for managers and their employees?
The pandemic has undeniably affected the lives of all of us across the UK, creating challenges for leaders and their employees.
“In my conversations with startup and scale-up executives, two main topics come up again and again – adapting to hybrid work and coping with high operational requirements,” says Alan Furley, Director at ISL.
“Most organizations want to strike a balance between physical collaboration and remote work, and without a proven approach to fall back on, it is difficult to know where to set parameters and where to choose.”
Some of the concerns CEOs have about hybrid working are fears of lower productivity and poorer career development, although others have recognized that it can provide a better work-life balance that can result in happier, more productive employees.
“The employees are also going through significant changes and challenges,” says Dr. Nick Zygouris, Consulting Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Director for Health Management, an occupational health and training provider.
“These range from working from home, which worked well for some employees as it allowed them to rebalance their family life while for others it didn’t work so well that it either increased feelings of loneliness and isolation forced her into adverse domestic conditions. ”.
“Entry into a company was also difficult for new employees, as many companies lacked the experience of effectively carrying out remote introductions. Remote introductions also provide limited opportunities for “water cooler conversations,” which help build relationships on a more personal level.
Whether or not hybrid working has been successful for executives and employees, it’s still a new way to work and things are always changing, which is what Dr. Nick Zygouris sees one of the biggest challenges right now:
“There are a number of different challenges that managers and employees face. The landscape is constantly changing, and you must constantly adapt to the new economy and the changing demands of this new economy.
“We are coming out of the lockdown and this understandably creates uncertainty and the associated feelings of fear. We are also seeing further adjustments to the economy as a result of Brexit. Business leaders are faced with difficult decisions and predictions at an unprecedented point in time. At times like these, you may feel the full weight of the world on your shoulders.
“Also, the pandemic has likely made them even more aware of the financial demands and constraints on their employees and that adapting to the new economy may require significant restructuring to ensure financial sustainability. These can be very difficult decisions for any business leader, and some tell us that it makes them lose sleep. “
Do companies care enough about their own well-being and that of their employees?
According to Deloitte’s Mental Health and Employers Report published in January 2020, one in six employees also has a mental health problem. Since that number has likely increased due to the pandemic, it raises important questions about whether companies are doing enough to support their own well-being and that of their employees.
“Because of Covid, there have been more discussions about mental health in the workplace, normalizing mental health and reducing stigma. We have seen that more and more companies want to do more to support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, ”says Dr. Nick Zygouris.
“Mental health first aid training is a measure that is more widely adopted by us. This is standardized training that is carried out in the workplace and informs employees about the various mental illnesses and how to immediately support and guide colleagues who may be experiencing a crisis in the workplace.
“We also saw greater acceptance of our executive mental health awareness training, which gives leaders an overview of the causes of mental illness and how to have constructive and helpful conversations with employees with mental health problems. There is also an important element in teaching managers to take care of themselves to ensure that managers’ mental health and wellbeing are not overlooked. “
“But is that enough? While it’s great that there is more mental health training in the workplace and we encourage all companies to consider training options, training should be a starting point.
“For example, these trained first responders or mental health managers need ongoing support and education so they don’t lose touch and confidence. All trained employees report a high level of trust in supporting the mental health of their colleagues after the training event, but additional training and learning opportunities are required to maintain this trust in the long term. “
“In our training sessions, managers tell us that when an employee says they are anxious, depressed, or suicidal, sometimes they are not sure what to say. They lack the confidence to moderate these discussions without training, and some are afraid of saying the wrong thing that could make the employee’s situation worse.
“Research has shown time and again that the greatest factor in wellbeing in the workplace is the relationship between employees and their manager. So investing in training managers to support and maintain this relationship is really going to bring many benefits in terms of productivity and retention. With one in four people personally affected by mental illness, knowing how to have effective conversations about these matters is critical. “
While some argue that caring for the well-being of your employees is important for ethical reasons, it is also impossible to ignore the benefits it could bring to your business. As the Deloitte report points out, for every £ 1 an employer invests in mental health, an employer makes an average return of £ 5.
Mental absenteeism also cost the UK £ 14 billion in 2020, according to a study by Westfield Health.
However, according to Dr. Nick Zygouris: “From a business leader’s point of view, prioritizing increasing investments in employee wellbeing when faced with multiple competing investment needs can be difficult.
“Even so, there is a plethora of studies linking employee wellbeing to increased productivity, innovation, employee retention and employee engagement, but the return on investment case can still be difficult to enforce.”
“The difficulty in demonstrating a return on investment is often because employers do not regularly collect data on wellbeing, productivity, innovation and employee engagement, a practice I would recommend to all executives.”
What steps can managers take to improve their wellbeing and that of their employees?
Since there are clear arguments for why leaders should take care of themselves and their employees, one question remains: How can they create a positive mental health and wellbeing strategy in their work environment?
“Much has been written about being authentic and putting your whole self into your work, and that includes communicating your own vulnerability as both a leader and a manager. I think this can create an environment where employees feel safe and have the opportunity to talk about their own mental health, ”says Dr. Nick Zygouris.
“That’s why it’s important that leaders visibly demonstrate some of the wellbeing behaviors they want their employees to do. If they practice practicing wellbeing and self-care while creating an environment through policies and culture that enables employees to do the same, then their employees are more likely to follow. “
Dr. Nick Zygouris isn’t the only one who believes it’s important to lead by example; at IRL, they put this into practice and saw real benefits for their team.
“My business partner Henry tested the Friday afternoons off last year to promote the well-being of our team,” says Alan Furley.
“He wanted to show that it was a real offer, not to give a signal of who was not showing the right work ethic! As part of this, he used the time to run and made sure to share this with the team. That got others to do the same, with photos of cycling, others walking, even one cleaning – whatever helped their wellbeing!
“We have now permanently switched to a 4.5 day week and I would definitely recommend that to help mental health. Having the choice of how to spend this time is really valuable. “
“Finally, leaders don’t have to take on all of the responsibility,” continues Alan. “The staff are much more concerned with mental health, which may mean that some of your team would like to provide more support in this area.
“This can be the organization of team check-ins, the signage of support or taking the lead in sharing. Supporting the mental health of your team is not a challenge that you as a manager have to face alone. “