I’m sure it is no surprise to many of us that it’s tough out there. Many of us are dealing with high levels of stress both personally and professionally. Many Australians are reporting that they are working long hours, have excessive workloads, not enough support in their workplace, feel insecure in their job and feel ill equipped to deal with change and challenges.
Statistics are indicating that at any given time, 20% of us are experiencing a mental health issue. Each year 1 in 5 of us take time off from the workplace due to issues with mental health and this figure is more than twice as high (46 per cent) if you're someone who considers your workplace mentally unhealthy.
Interestingly, a recent study showed that nearly half of leaders in the workplace don’t believe their workers are experiencing any mental health issues.
It does not appear to be rocket science to comprehend that both employers and employees benefit when a workplace prioritises mental health and wellbeing. To put it bluntly, people do their best work when they are in a positive frame of mind.
Creating a workplace culture where wellbeing is front of mind for both leaders and employees can be a dauting prospect. The phrase “this is the way we’ve always done it” can be a term heard a lot when it comes to workplace wellbeing.
But when workplaces start to work collaboratively to consider workplace tasks, teams, strengths and positive changes, great outcomes can occur.
One of the first questions to ask is WWW (What’s Working Well)? What is the organisation already doing which is creating great outcomes for staff? You can check in with an organisation and staff to assess how your workplace thinks and acts when it comes to wellbeing and mental health.
Then… what is the next step? An organisation does not necessarily have to make big changes to make a big impact.
A good first step is to recognise some of the issues that can impact wellbeing and mental health such as:
Working long hours for long periods of time
Unclear role definitions and measures of success
Lack of recognition at work
Toxic workplaces where bullying or discrimination is occurring.
Lack of personal wellbeing and resilience strategies.
Organisations need to keep in mind that there should be a focus on maximising wellbeing for all staff, not only those that are languishing or have poor mental health, but also keeping those staff who are already flourishing, consistently flourishing.
So, what are the opportunities for an organisation to maximise wellbeing?
1) Be flexible.
Setting up an environment where there is supportive leadership and where managers are active in managing workloads and pressures is an excellent first step. Flexibility in this is essential. Allowing people flexibility is great for personal wellbeing.
This could be working from home once every couple of weeks, or having flexible start and finish times to fit in other lifestyle needs and balance.
Helping people manage their workload is also about listening to employees and understanding common triggers for stress.
Leaders need to recognise there are ways they can manage. There are ways to assist people reduce stress: be cautious with heavy workloads, set realistic deadlines, manage uncertainty.
2) Create a (psychologically) safe culture
It is important for leaders to be aware of staff wellbeing all the time, not just when people are unwell.
This understanding is correlated to the quality of the relationship’s leaders have with their staff. This means checking in with staff and asking about and reviewing their wellbeing when they are well, not just when they are unwell.
Having an open channel of positive communication, treating people with respect, diversity and inclusion, having opportunities for team connectedness and for relationships, and celebrating wins and achievements all go into developing supportive and constructive workplace culture.
3) Prioritise support and communication daily
Creating a mentally healthy workplace requires more than a resilience training session here and there.
It's a long-term commitment that involves creating a space where employees feel continually safe and supported, and where mental health is openly spoken about.
If someone doesn't feel psychologically safe to come out and talk about their experiences, they're not going to.
An organisation can have all this great training, but unless employees feel safe and know that they won't be excluded, treated differently, or lose their job — they won't feel comfortable or capable of being open.
4) Focus on “wellness that works”
Regular catch-ups between leaders and staff, support and training programs, and return-to-work programs can all go a long way in ensuring mental health is a workplace priority.
It also creates a place where staff can feel safe and comfortable and supported.
An organisation can focus on a range of programs to support staff including:
Physical activity programs
Coaching and mentoring programs
Mental health education
Resilience and Mental Toughness training
Encouraging employee involvement
However sometimes simply a great catch up between leaders and their staff conducted on a regular basis are just as advantageous.
5) Just listen
Sometimes just listening to the needs of your staff can be a major opportunity to maximise wellbeing.
This is not about what “perks” they need – free food, bean bags in the lunch room etc. This is about really listening to the concerns your staff are vocalising and work with them to derive proactive solutions to these issues.
Want to know more about developing a wellbeing strategy for your organisation? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.