When considering your employee’s mental health and wellbeing, you are not expected to bring solutions, but to be able to provide support and encouragement. The signs and symptoms of mental health can vary greatly between individuals; therefore, it is vital not to assume that we know what is occurring for an individual, or even try to diagnose them ourselves. It is important that employers create an open, inclusive, and safe environment to encourage employees to reach out for help if their mental health is suffering.
Employers should have conversations with their employees about their wellbeing. The recommended approach would be to have a non-invasive and open interaction which will make them feel seen and respected without offence. Experiencing mental health difficulties can be isolating, especially with stigma still being prevalent in work and society. Not asking someone can make them feel even more alone. Making someone feel safe enough to explore their feelings with you is one of the best things you can offer someone. If you are uncomfortable or hesitant, check if there is another colleague who would be more suited to start the conversation. And most importantly, ensure the timing of these engagements are right - before a big meeting is not the right time. This approach will reduce mental health stigma while increasing the likelihood that your employees feel happier, more confident, and more productive.
You can create an environment where your employees feel heard, respected, and cared for by considering the following points.
- Give the employee your full attention. This process should not be a box-ticking exercise, you will only see the benefit if its given full commitment.
- As a manager, it is important to understand your team members individually and what work-life balance means to them. Some employees enjoy flexible start and finishing times, while others prefer working from home one day a week so they can get to their exercise class on time or pick their children up from school. Work-life balance is important for creating a full, enjoyable life and many of us can be guilty of spending too much time in work, or still reflecting on work when we've gone home.
- If someone shares that they are struggling, try saying: “What would be most helpful to you right now?” “What could we take off your plate?” “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Let’s chat about the resources we have available here and see if you would be interested in availing of any”.
Your willingness to open an honest conversation about mental health with your employees is exactly the kind of gift that so many people want and need right now.
Visit YourMentalHealth.ie or the SFA’s content on Workplace wellness to learn more about mental health, and how to support yourself and others. National Workplace Wellbeing Day takes place on Friday, 30 April. Keep an eye on our social media over the next few weeks for ideas and information on how to get involved.