As we’ve previously mentioned, building a workplace with good mental health (of staff and leadership alike) is a key priority for raising morale, productivity and creativity all round. But how can a time-pressed business leader make this happen?
It’s all about creating a culture of openness, and putting a support framework in place for staff to use when they need it. It's also important to think about what causes stress, and how that stress permeates through the whole team. Stress is not always triggered by negative events such as redundancies. New and exciting opportunities – like new product launches or pitches for major contracts – can contribute to serious burnout, too.
Nick Elston offers mentorship and coaching on mental health and wellbeing.
“If you’re genuinely committed to looking after the mental health of your staff, this should go way beyond being a box-ticking exercise on a few days or weeks per year,” he says. “It needs to become part of your company’s culture.”
Considering the six points below can help you make that happen.1. Talk about mental health – including your own
Opening up about your own stresses and struggles is actually good leadership. Creating an environment where this is the norm will allow colleagues and employees to do the same. But remember the aircraft analogy – you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help anyone else.2. Find an advocate to champion initiatives
Real passion and commitment “stands out like a sore thumb,” says Nick. While business leaders may need to provide the initial push in this area, they don’t have to carry the burden alone. So – delegate!
EY is one example of a company whose management has responded to an increased need for mental health support at work. The company’s ‘We Care’ programme has seen huge uptake, with one of the key factors for its success being the presence of a senior-level sponsor and mental health professional each time. Also, someone in leadership models the open and sharing environment by sharing their story. This is crucial as it sends the message that anxiety is a common experience and attending the session won’t harm their career.3. Weave these initiatives into your long-term company calendar
Good mental health is for life, not just World Mental Health Day. Awareness days are a great focal point, but to truly create a culture of openness and show employees that mental health is a priority for you, you’ll need to schedule events and activities throughout the year.4. Bring in external speakers
Ongoing engagement is needed to make an impact, says Nick. He believes he offers the most value to organisations when he joins in with the work they’re already doing to support good mental health and wellbeing. But bringing in someone from outside the company can help employees open up.
“Because I tell my own story about anxiety, OCD and PTSD, people will open up to me about all sorts of things and start to find a way forward. But there needs to be the time and space to do that,” he says.5. Signposting, signposting, signposting
Equip your workforce with knowledge about what to do if they spot someone struggling and what resources they can signpost to. This can be facilitated through Mental Health First Aid workplace training. They offer a line managers' resource for employers on how to support employees experiencing mental health issues and create a mentally healthy workplace, along with a comprehensive list of outlets that you can signpost to, such as Mind and Mental Health UK.6. Handle high-stress moments with mental health in mind
Getting through an upsetting round of redundancies or preparing for a high-pressure pitch can put pressure on the wellbeing of employees and leaders alike. For negative moments, your communication choices are key, says Vistage speaker Kate Hull-Rodgers.
“Respect, politeness, kindness and taking the time to listen can make all the difference. Make sure you’re explaining as best you can, and signposting people to where they can get some help. But above all, keep your communication lines open and working fluidly.”
Joining a Vistage group will help you to connect with fellow business leaders, share stories and gain invaluable advice. Apply for a free leadership consultation with a Vistage Chair and find out more.
Photo credit: Tom Blackwell, Flickr