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A Leader’s Role in Managing Mental Health at Work
Leaders are responsible for creating organizational cultures that facilitate preventive mental health training and support for mental health problems. Leaders and managers can model positive behaviors and help remove the stigma of mental health issues by being open about their mental health journeys.
With workplace stress at record levels, the role of mental health in organizational success has jumped to the forefront. Companies have recognized the need to become proactive about addressing the causes of mental health lapses. How can you, as a leader or manager, support the mental health of your employees?
Modeling positive behavior is a powerful leadership tool.
Talking the talk may or may not elicit a positive reaction in followers. Walking the walk never fails to build trust, however. When you talk about something, you conjure up an abstract concept for your listeners. When you set an example, you give them a practical idea of what you expect of them.
Modeling Positive Behaviors
Leadership coaching always stresses the importance of leading by example. There isn’t a better way to convince your employees of the validity of behaviors than modeling them yourself.
In the context of mental health, don’t just talk about its importance and tell your employees how they should practice self-care. Practice self-care, set boundaries, and let your employees know how you maintain your mental shape.
Go for walks, set aside quality time for water-cooler talk, and go to therapy if needed.
Destroying the Mental Health Stigma
Even now, when we know so much about mental health, psychology, and depression, mental health therapy carries a stigma. People are afraid that a history of mental health therapy may hurt their career prospects and value as employees.
Show vulnerability by showcasing your mental health struggles and solutions. When a leader opens up about mental health, employees feel more comfortable following suit. And the first step in tackling mental health problems is to learn of their existence.
Leadership coaching values vulnerability as a way for leaders to become more relatable, approachable, and human. Vulnerability on the part of the leader builds trust and rapport while modeling intelligent leadership behaviors.
Going the Extra Mile to Connect
Before the global pandemic, leaders could check in with their reports regularly and in person. Now, as many employees work from home, checking in is more challenging.
Reach out and offer support.
Making an effort to reach out now and then won’t suffice. Infrequent check-ins won’t allow leaders to spot signs that someone is struggling mentally.
What organizations need is a culture of frequent and regular check-ins. And leaders are responsible for building up and maintaining such cultures.
What can you do to facilitate better communication with remote workers?
- Ask meaningful questions. Probe deeper.
- Truly listen. Pay attention to the complete answer. Make it clear that you are open to questions and concerns.
- Listen well and be empathetic. Don’t be overbearing and avoid any micromanagement tendencies.
- Don’t try to solve problems on the spot. You may not know what to do or say when someone shares their struggles with you. Addressing mental health issues is a process.
Helping Employees Design and Enforce Boundaries
Be flexible when addressing stress sources. Like your reports’ mental health needs, sources of stress tend to change according to the circumstances. Be inclusive. Executive coaching professionals never fail to stress the importance of inclusivity.
Turn inclusivity and flexibility into parts of your organizational culture. Promote tolerance, and encourage your team members to be understanding with their peers and reports as they adapt to the changing circumstances.
Focusing on Workplace Mental Health Training
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Focus on preventive mental health training and company practices that support mental health self-care. Review the organizational norms and rules and don’t hesitate to modify them to support preventive mental health care.
Whenever you make a change, make it clear to your reports that you’re doing it to support the mental health of your workforce.
As a leader, you can create a culture and environment conducive to better mental health by:
- Understanding the mental health needs of your staff
- Implementing new programs to support preventive mental health care
- Modeling positive behaviors
- Being flexible about your organizational rules and norms
Better employee mental health results in increased productivity. By addressing the mental health needs of your workforce, you set up your organization to succeed.