Lead your team to better mental health

This year has been one of the toughest any of us faced. Angst caused by so many aspects of COVID-19 – financial pressure, separation from friends and family, and all the unknown elements are just a few – means nearly everyone’s mental health is suffering.

Although COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected your business and its bottom line, as an employer you need to lead your team members to cope better by creating a holistic workplace wellness program focused on mental health.

This requires a level of bravery that is uncommon in Australia. Why? Because the leadership offered in such a program needs to be truly vulnerable, open and empathetic for it to work.

Brave leaders understand they have to guide their organisation by being honest, sharing their feelings, telling their stories and opening up. And while most large organisations provide workplace well-being programs and professional employee assistance services, for small-business owners this can be new ground. In 2020, however, every business, regardless of size, needs to provide its employees with more than a weekly yoga class or a set of company values pinned on the wall. Businesses need to create a compassionate workplace.

One of the healthiest steps you can take to support your employees’ mental wellness is to create an open, empathetic and trusting environment. Some of the steps we have taken at Half Dome can be adapted to the smallest of businesses.

First, you need to lead with empathy, so your employees trust and believe you. This is where the bravery comes in. Your team needs to be comfortable sharing how they’re feeling, but they won’t do it if you seem to be made of emotional steel. You have to be vulnerable, too. Depending on the number of employees in your business you may want to formalise this by setting a time every day or week for each person to speak to you or someone in a leadership role.

It’s easy for people to disappear into the pits of despair, thanks to negative self-talk, but you can help by asking them if they’re OK, if there’s anything they need and what you can do to help them. Of course, you need to really listen to what they’re telling you. Ask them what you can do to help then follow up. This may involve offering to bring in professional help.

If you create the right environment, asking someone if they’re OK becomes meaningful. Your employees will be able to tell you the truth. If their answer is “I don’t think so”, the program you’ve developed will ensure they get the help they need.

Now, more than any year in living memory, we need to ensure our employees are coping. We need them to know that their wellbeing is important – not because it makes us more money, but because we’re all human and doing our best.

Lisa Lie, People & Culture Lead, Half Dome

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