Jan 17th, 2022
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While COVID-19 has definitely pushed the conversation into the forefront, the issue of mental health in the workplace had already gained greater prominence in recent years, and no modern workplace can be complete without having considered steps to foster positive environment in workplace. Ultimately, workplace health is the responsibility of the leadership team. Team leaders, managers, and supervisors all have a role to play in supporting their team and creating a healthy environment. Not only will it improve employee satisfaction and reduce absenteeism, but it will also in turn create a more productive work environment.
This article will discuss methods in which team leaders can promote mental health in the workplace.
Be a Supportive Figure
It is important that leaders be available to support their employees. Leaders should seek to present themselves as approachable about any employee concerns. An authority figure talking openly about mental health in the workplace can aid with reducing the stigma that prevents many from speaking out. This may mean referring their own struggles with mental health, or being willing to initiate a conversation with an employee displaying signs of poor mental health.
Even if an employee does not speak directly to their leader, simply the knowledge that a supportive environment exists can help them.
Education and Training
A workplace should regularly invest and partake in workplace mental health training. Leaders themselves may wish to take training courses and programs dealing directly with their own role, but the wider employee base should also undertake preventative training and be taught how to keep an eye out for warning signs of poor health in the workplace.
Create New Workplace Policies and Procedures
Specific policies and procedures should be in place to respond to mental health in the workplace. Flexible work practices should be considered – can an employee work from home? Does the employee have childcaring responsibilities that make the morning commute more stressful than it needs to be? Having a policy in place where employees can vary their start and finish times to suit their personal circumstances can really help to bolster their workplace satisfaction.
More and more workplaces are also providing benefits to employees such as an additional day off. Named “duvet days”, or “mental health days”, some companies offer a small amount of days each year for their employees to call out from work when they’re simply not in the right headspace to work.
Managing Employee Workloads
Employers and team leaders have a work health and safety (WHS) responsibility to their employees. This includes ensuring that any overtime they are required to work does not put a strain on their mental or physical health.
While it must be acknowledged that certain industries do carry an expectation an employee will often be required to perform additional hours, this does mean an employer has carte blanche to demand their employee’s work excessive amounts of overtime over a sustained period.
It is unsustainable for employees to work excessive hours on a weekly basis and burnout is a very real danger. If employees have been undertaking immense workloads, it is best to offer them some time to take annual leave to rest and recuperate, and, ideally, look to change their workload moving forward so that the danger of burnout is removed or significantly reduced.
Overworking an employee in the short term will only create problems in the future, whether that be poor performance, resignation, a negative work environment, or significant health problems for employees.
To round it all up, when trying to foster support for mental health in the workplace, its important to remember the job is never done. Leaders and workplaces should be continually reviewing their policies and procedures, and looking for ways to improve. The effort will yield dividends, from greater employee productivity and operational performance, to job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism.