Three ways to support employee mental health and wellbeing by IRIS Elements image

Three ways to support employee mental health and wellbeing by IRIS Elements

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) recently shone a spotlight on the importance of staff wellbeing.

onWednesday, 22 May 2024

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) recently shone a spotlight on the importance of staff wellbeing.

The CIPD found mental health impacts one in four people at some point in their lives and has a significant impact on wellbeing, often being the major cause of long-term absence from work.

As HR professionals, we must support staff year-round, ensuring they have the tools and support needed to thrive in life.

In fact, fostering a supportive and healthy work environment may be the most important job we can do as HR professionals.

However, where should HR start? In this blog, I'll explore practical tips and strategies you can use to support the wellbeing of your people.

1) Ensure fairness

Creating a good work environment where people feel comfortable, respected and interested, all have a knock-on impact on mental health.

In fact, studies have found that being unemployed or sudden retirement comes with a loss of money but also identity and purpose.

What this tells us is that work when done well is good for mental health and gives people purpose, structure, achievement and meaning.

My advice for HR professionals is to ensure any bad management and unfairness is taken care of.

Staff being belittled, yelled at, unappreciated and overloaded with work is bad for mental health and loses the positive benefits we can gain from a healthy work environment.

Ultimately, you need to ensure the treatment of people is fair and appropriate. 

To facilitate a healthy work environment conducive to positive wellbeing, ensure managers have had the required training so they are in the best position to support their teams.

Top tip: I advise you also take your training a step further and offer your employees beneficial courses which can help them to reduce stress, such as time management and effective communication courses.

Of course, harassment and discrimination also play a negative role and must be swiftly dealt with.

Ensure staff have a way to flag these kinds of issues - concrete policies are a must.

Also, consider offering staff surveys where those uncomfortable coming to you directly can provide anonymous feedback.

2) Encourage authenticity

Research has revealed that those who feel they have to hide parts of their true self at work face a negative impact on their mental health.

Putting in place great workplace benefits won’t make a difference if someone's manager is being discriminatory and hostile. 

The above point of ensuring staff have clear ways to flag these issues rings true here.

However, while enabling authenticity relates to enabling a diverse and inclusive environment that embraces and supports all areas such as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, it also applies to more general aspects such as hobbies, passions and interests.

Of course, these areas must be workplace-appropriate, but fostering an open environment goes a long way in making people feel comfortable and helping the wider mental health piece. 

To enable this, you need a culture focused on openness which ultimately has to be championed by your leaders.

A great starting point, simple as it may be, is to ensure when managers and leaders are running weekly team calls, for example, that they ask people about their weekends and what they got up to.

Starting that initial conversation goes a long way in creating an environment where people feel comfortable to truly express themselves.

3) Support managers to support staff

Think of the best and most rewarding job you’ve had.

Chances are that you had an amazing manager who you were happy working with and actively supported you.

Good managers result in happy and productive people; effective management is based on emotional intelligence and genuine care for your people.

Areas such as prioritising team learning, offering useful feedback and facilitating discussion may seem obvious but some managers need help.

Not every person in a people management position intended to go into that role - perhaps it was just the natural progression within the company - and they now need some added assistance to make them the best they can be.

Additionally, workforce expectations have changed.

People value flexibility, autonomy, development, wellbeing and culture above all else.

An area which requires consideration is adapting previous leadership styles to embody these new demands.

Businesses are full of great leaders, but their methods and expectations won't always align with these workplace changes.

In these cases, upskilling is the aim.

Existing managers may need training to adapt to what the modern workforce expects from its leaders.

From empowering direct reports with learning & development (L&D) opportunities to supporting a fully remote team, there a plenty of skills which weren’t required to the same extent five years ago.

Wellbeing initiatives won’t mean anything if you don’t first create a great place to work

A pizza party in the office won't make up for being a terrible place to work.

We are starting to see the term wellbeing-washing pop up more and more.

Similar to green-washing, wellbeing-washing refers to companies offering the bare minimum in regards to staff support to simply say they have initiatives in place.

A training course on stress won't help if staff spend all day screaming at each other. 

Staff wellbeing is more than a tick-box exercise, and the way you operate strongly dictates your culture and work environment.

Ultimately, it is as simple as being nice and professional to people, and that supports everything else.

If you're looking for more insights into how people management is changing, look no further.

Our new Podcast with Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR and Stephanie Coward, MD of HCM at IRIS Software Group, explores how managers can adopt a more intimate and personalised approach to keep employees united as a single community, using data to understand what is and isn’t working.

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