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A managers guide to workplace mental health

A Managers Guide to Mental Health

The scary fact is studies have shown one in six employees suffer from mental health issues at any one time.

While I personally think that much of the work in recent years to bring mental health issues to the forefront has been amazing in raising more awareness around many of the stigmas and forcing governments to fund programs to assist, much work is still to be done.

This is especially true in the workplace where many employers continue to view mental health issues as 'staff personal problems' that have nothing to do with them. Effectively dismissing the issue as a responsibility for management.

Even if I can't persuade you with moral responsibility to have mental health strategies in place, the cost to your bottom line speaks for itself. You need to best manage your people.

Several research papers on the topic have put the cost of mental health on the Australian economy at $12b a year due to absenteeism, performance and productivity issues, turnover and compensation claims.

$12 billion a year! That is a crazy number that should make all employers stop and think about their own hip pocket.

The problem is that, for employers, the topic of mental health is one that is often too embarrassing and complicated to confront head-on. But this needs to change if businesses want to run profitable and happy workplaces into the future.

So what exactly can managers do to help improve mental health and reduce the impacts on their businesses?

1. Make It An Open Topic

Mental health can still be a bit of taboo topic. As leaders in 2019, your job is to make mental health an open topic in your workplace and create an environment where employees feel safe to speak up if they or a colleague is struggling. This doesn't mean openly talking about mental health issues of employees that should be kept confidential, but rather make sure that employees know that the business understands mental health and cares about everyone in the organisation. Beyond Blue has a range of flyers and brochures for around the office to help educate employees and keep mental health top of mind.

2. Respectful and Trusting Work Culture

It is a fact of life that most people will suffer mental health issues due to personal reasons from time to time. A healthy culture will go a long way to assist in managing mental health issues amongst employees. A work culture that ensures mutual respect, trust and transparency from the top down will reduce the stress of employees who are struggling, ensuring work is a place they look forward to attending and can help them focus on something positive. Read more about how to have a healthy workplace HERE.

3. Work-Life Balance

The reality is, life for all of us is busier than ever.

We are all trying to squeeze more and more into both our personal and work lives which can at best lead to burnout, and worse, can amplify mental health issues that are brewing beneath the surface. Whilst the responsibility of work-life balance rests with both the employee and employer, there are things employers can do to help. This includes ensuring respecting employee personal time whenever possible, ensuring they have enough time off to recharge and that long shifts are kept to a minimum.

4. Check In

One of the best public initiatives in the area of mental health is R U Ok which states its goal which is "To inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling with life." This is an approach managers should take within their business and notice employees that are not themselves and quietly asking, "Are you ok?". Whilst in the chaos of running a business, taking the time to notice small changes in the moods of your employees can be a challenge, it is definitely time worth spent. A two minute conversation to check in with an employee sends a powerful message to all staff that the company genuinely cares about their wellbeing. Not only will this reduce impacts of mental health challenges but it will create a loyal and dedicated team.

5. Train Your Managers

There is no point in the boss being focussed and skilled in addressing mental health issues if line managers are ignorant on the topic. It's vital that mental health management strategies come from the top down, and managers and supervisors are also trained in the techniques above. Most of the time, managers are likely to be the ones on the front line dealing with issues as they appear day to day.

Mental health is a fact of life. We are all likely to face challenges in this area at some point in our lives.

Leaders that embrace this challenge and implement robust strategies will minimise the impact within their business and actually produce an even more motivated and loyal team.

Cheers and here's to happy health inside and out!

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