Employees are the biggest assets of any organisation. And like any critical asset, they need to be protected from risks – both inside and outside the formal workplace – for them to perform and contribute at their best.
There are many factors that cause or enhance stress in the workplace: irregular work hours, financial or job-related uncertainty, or the struggle for work-life balance. These can contribute to a deterioration in mental health or even go on causing conditions such as depression or anxiety. But not every employee may be able to voice these problems out loud, especially if they fear that such behaviour may be frowned upon.
Therefore, organisations must send encouraging and positive messages around self-care and wellness to their people. Doing so helps in creating healthy, resilient, and more engaged teams.
Here are some tips.
Create safe spaces and be approachable
When your employees know they can approach you for help and be heard, they will be more likely to start a conversation with you regarding their concerns. As a first step, employers can start peer-support groups with help from mental health professionals. Such groups create safe spaces for employees to connect and share their experiences in managing stress and anxiety. Managers must also be trained in creating safe spaces for open discussion around health and wellbeing so that their teammates are empowered to ask for help without fear of criticism.
Organise regular wellness workshops
Workshops led by qualified professionals can give your people systematic tools to take care of themselves and perform better. Most people have only a broad understanding of how their work is affected by things like nutrition, sleep or stress management. Learning the science of wellness from experts can help them achieve a healthier lifestyle that also reflects in their energy, creativity or performance at work. On another note, making sustained investments in wellness programmes is also correlated with better financial results for companies.
Find ways to stay in touch with remote workers
Before COVID-19, colleagues could de-stress by taking a coffee break or walking into their boss’s office for help. But working from home has affected interpersonal relationships. Building relationships and trust can be tricky, especially for new employees who might feel isolated or unheard. Here it is important to stay in touch regularly with your remote team. Use different video conferencing and workflow platforms to facilitate regular interactions. These interactions don’t always have to be official. Create Friday evening virtual meetups where remote workers can bring their family members or pets or have a virtual pizza party. Such exercises help people see each other’s human side and increase empathy and mutual trust.
Talk about burn-out
The WHO defines burnout as a psychological syndrome caused by extreme workplace stress that hasn’t been efficiently managed. Burnt-out employees often lack energy and motivation to perform well and develop negative feelings towards their jobs.
You can reduce burnout among your employees by having regular and open conversations with your team members. Help them deal with burnout by distributing tasks more equitably, or by offering flexible work timings to those who need them. Encourage people to have open conversations about burn-out and seek help for it.
Your employees can be your best teachers on workplace wellness. So, if someone gives you negative feedback about the management style, try to understand the problem instead of being defensive. Encourage your employees to speak up and suggest practical solutions to the problem. Being a good listener and being flexible instead of throwing the rulebook at the other person makes them feel more valued and motivated.
The Harvard Business Review reported that most employees don’t know about their companies’ wellbeing programmes and therefore fail to take advantage of the benefits assured to them. You can fix this communication gap in various ways: hold meetings, send them an email or SMS communications, print out brochures and pamphlets and so on. Hiring managers must inform new employees about the wellbeing programme during the induction stage, and all the employees should have access to someone who can answer their doubts or queries around this.
An Australian workplace survey found that businesses rack up losses of $10.9 billion every year due to untreated mental health conditions, including money lost due to absenteeism, presenteeism (when people come to work but are not engaged) and compensation claims. The study also revealed that 91% of employees and 89% of leaders would prefer to work at mentally healthy workplaces. Importantly, many employees felt that senior leaders did not consider mental health in the workplace as important as they (employees) did.
This brings us to an important insight: creating mentally healthy workspaces starts from the top. When you consciously work to become flexible, approachable, and fair, the work environment improves, and employees will be motivated to find satisfaction in their work instead of burning out and looking for another employer who does care about them.
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