In the space of two weeks, three directors from three different companies, asked me what advice I had for managing wellbeing; in particular for individuals in high-pressure roles. After some reflection, I drew out the five key things that I felt can make the most difference to managing mental wellbeing – whatever your industry.
1. Let your team know it’s ok, not to feel ok
The aim for any workplace wellbeing initiative is for employees to feel ‘psychologically safe’. This describes when someone feels like they are able to act authentically without negative consequences to their status or career.
Research by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that less than a third of managers in the private sector “encourage a focus on mental well-being through their actions and behaviour”; and only a minority of individuals felt that their managers have the skills and confidence needed to manage mental health effectively1CIPD. (2019). “Health & Well-Being at Work: Private Sector”. London..
How? Don’t put on a brave face, instead share your own experiences
We are all human and experience periods in our life when things become too much and get to us. When have you experienced stress? How did you cope? Think of an example and share it with your team.
This doesn’t mean you need to stand up in front of the team and talk about a challenging period in your life – make it work for your environment. Perhaps in the next 1-2-1 you have with an employee or through an email reflecting on the past quarter.
Not only will you be helping to destigmatise perceptions of talking about mental health in the workplace, but the act of sharing and being vulnerable are both critical to fostering social connection – a key part to happiness.
2. Get to know your employeesIntroverts, extroverts, closet Star Trek fans, night owls, and morning larks… we are all different. And it feels like this should go without saying but it’s worth acknowledging that our approaches to wellbeing need to reflect that these differences exist.
For any manager with responsibility for the mental wellbeing of their employees, the starting point is to develop an understanding of what the people you manage find stressful, how they respond to stress, and what helps them to recover.
How? Use psychometric test results for wellbeing as well as management
Psychometric tools and assessments, such as ‘DISC Theory’, which explores an individuals preferred behaviours, or ‘Insights Discovery’, which gives an indication of personality type, are often used to aid the management of employees and build effective teams, but they can be a powerful tool for understanding how members of your team might respond to stressful situations.
If you don’t have the budget for psychometric assessments with an accredited professional, there are free alternatives available that can be used instead – for example 16personalities.com, which provides free access to the ‘Myers Briggs Type Indicator’.
3. Invest time in developing your management abilityIt might seem counter intuitive when focusing on the wellbeing of your employees to instead focus on yourself; however, if you combine the evidence that suggests people leave their manager – not their job2Goler et al., (2018). “Why People Really Quit Their Jobs”. Harvard Business Review., and that poor management negatively effects how employees feel mentally3Nyberg, Anna. (2009). “Poor leadership poses a health risk at work“. Karolinska Institutet, it makes sense to think seriously about what management skills you might need to improve. Research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) describes the UK as a nation of “accidental managers”4Frean, Alexandra. (2017). “Rise of the accidental manager lies behind UK’s low productivity“. The Times., with 43% of managers described as “ineffective” by their team members; however, only 1 in 5 have been given any formal management training and even then it’s often not set in the context of where they now work.
How? Invest in a coach
Management or leadership courses can be expensive, timely and often not particularly suited to the industry or sector you work in; however, coaching offers an alternative that is 1-2-1 and tailored to your needs as an individual.
Coaching is particularly effective at helping to develop self awareness, empathy and the ability to motivate others – all traits of emotional intelligence that have been shown as crucial to good management5Goleman, Daniel. (2009). “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. Bloomsbury Publishing..
The coaches at Hatching Ideas specialise in management, leadership and performance coaching – if you need a coach for yourself or someone in your team get in touch with us.
4. Work on developing trust with your employees
An open door policy is often adopted by managers when it comes to mental wellbeing – “if you have a problem, come and talk to me about it” – but unless your employees trust you, that is not going to happen. A study across 250 companies in the UK, by team activity organiser Wildgoose, found that almost half of employees (49%) did not feel like they could talk to their manager about a mental health issue6Wildgoose. Mental Health in the Workplace Survey..
How? Place a deposit into their ’emotional bank account’
Trust doesn’t happen over night; however, one way to simplify how you think about developing it is to imagine trust as an ’emotional bank account’. The balance in the bank account describes the amount of trust that you have built up in that relationship7Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.. Through your actions as a manager, you either deposit into or withdraw from the account.
5. Change how you manage your teamActions speak louder than words, consequently what you do is just as important as what you say. For some roles, it is not possible to remove periods of high pressure; they are part and parcel of the job. When deadlines are fast approaching, an important event is imminent, or the end of a financial quarter is approaching; it is in these instances that the responsibility of the manager is to think about what they can control to remove some of the pressure.
How? Show responsiveness and flexibility
The deadline won’t go away, but the meeting you’re putting in the diary to talk through their plans for next quarter – when they’re already working hard for something this quarter – can. Think about what must be done and what can wait, and then get it out of their way.
Many roles can now be done at home – show you trust them by helping make it happen. In a study by Wildgoose, 39% of employees who had flexible working arrangements felt it improved their mental health.
When talking about mental wellbeing in the workplace, there is so much to cover – from managing your own energy levels, to having the emotional intelligence to see the warning signs in the people that you work with.
In a work survey by CIPD, in partnership with Simplyhealth, mental ill health was listed as one of the top causes of long-term absence from work, with just over half (53%) of private sector organisations reporting an increase in common mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression8CIPD (2019), “Health & Well-Being at Work”. London..
If you want to work with others to help you develop a plan that’s tailored for where you work and who you work with, get in touch with us.