As part of Mental Health Week we are publishing an article a day on the subject of Mental Health and Wellbeing, starting with a look at how companies can provide employees with Mental Health support on the day no one loves.
It’s a known phenomenon, there are even songs about it, no one likes Mondays. Maybe that’s why half the applications for new jobs arrive on this much maligned day. But there’s a difference between regretting the end of a good weekend, being faced with the issues you’d put off on Friday, and with real mental health concerns. Often the latter gets confused with the former. So what can you do about it? The truth is, it’s pretty much impossible to do as a standalone thing on one day a week. Encouraging good employee mental health is something that has to happen as a core part of your people strategy, must have authenticity and should be a constantly reinforced behaviour across the whole business.
It’s also not just about dealing with problems when they arise, any more than physical health is only about going to the hospital. For physical health there’s the gym, good diet etc to keep us fit, for good mental health we need to have an environment that encourages Mental Fitness.
10 Things To Promote Mental Fitness
Evidence-based research has identified ten things that can help promote Mental Fitness:
Communicating about hopes/feelings/fears/concerns
Keeping physically active, healthy body/healthy mind
Having a good diet
Only using drugs and alcohol sensibly
Having social support, which includes family, friends and a team of good colleagues
Asking for help, and not feeling that it’s a stigma to do so
Taking a break, whether its five minutes, going home on time or a vacation
Doing something you’re good at, and don’t stick at a job you hate
Accepting who you are, don’t try to be what you’re not
Caring for others
As an employer then we need to encourage these things. We need to build them into our everyday conversation and team behaviours. Perhaps most of all we need to lead by example.
It’s not hard to see how we can build these areas into everyday conversation with our teams. Maybe create sub-teams with a monthly goal to come up with one way that they feel would improve everyone’s life – one of our clients calls this “Pay It Forward”. As you should be leading by example, why not make the first move yourself? And since it’s good to share and care, if there are people who have overcome mental health challenges, that may be a good starting point, providing they are prepared to discuss their journey to better health. Nobody should be trawling for sympathy, but sharing experience is invaluable.
Practical steps you can take – Straight away…
Focus on some light-hearted activities to create a sense of fun and pleasure. It won’t solve every problem but may provide some much-needed distraction and may help to remind people why they’re with you. You could…
Showcase recent successes
Organise a picnic lunch
Order in pizzas
Encourage a team activity, a drink, coffee, walk or meal out, or something more elaborate
Over the next month…
Make sure team communications are up to scratch with regular cross functional updates so that people feel connected to each other’s activities and less insular
Work on company-wide communications to celebrate victories and share problems
Sign up with an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which offers support over the phone to people who need it
Look at workloads in terms of both volume and achievement. People don’t come to work to do a bad job, and an early indicator of employee mental health problems can be a downturn in performance. Who is managing easily, who is struggling, why? Where do excuses regularly come from? How do managers talk about their team? Find patterns of behaviour and don’t leave it until next month or the month after to tackle concerns
Over the next three months…
Focus on training and development to give people a sense that they have a future career with you and that they are adding to their professional capabilities. Start with a round-up of what people need to learn to drive the business forward, carry out a skills matrix analysis and find the gaps
Talk about what people want to learn, too. This is particularly important for leadership and management training, which is often neglected. Investing in a course that will help your managers to spot the signs of employee mental health problems and knowing what to do about it is one of the most valuable things you can do
Over the next six months…
Get that training plan into action!
You could also look at some more in depth training specifically in employee mental health. These are relatively expensive courses and the knowledge goes when the employee goes, so it’s important to align this with a company mental health strategy that you can roll out across the business. It needs to be clear and concise, with guidelines and signposts on what to do if you feel a colleague has or is developing a problem
The most important thing you can do, though, is begin to put good Mental Health at the centre of your company culture. No one would consider running a company which was lax in health and safety and physical welfare, mental wellbeing should be just the same. Make it a priority.
If you want more ideas on how to make your workplace better for Mental Fitness maybe our consultants and training courses can help. We’d love to hear from you.