Guest blog for Occupational Health Awareness Week by Dr E Sarah L Porter, Occupational Physician and Chair of SOM Northern Ireland Group
Like physical health, mental health moves up and down a spectrum from good to poor. Given the amount of time spent at work, it’s not surprising that work environments and culture affect wellbeing. Research consistently shows that when employees feel valued and supported, they have higher wellbeing levels and perform better. These are my ten top tips for line managers in tackling work-related mental health:
1. Lead by example
Send a clear message to your staff that their wellbeing matters. Actively encourage your team to adopt healthier working habits (for example, working sensible hours; taking full lunch breaks; and taking annual leave).
2. Build your confidence on mental health
Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s mental health policies and practices, and the ways staff can seek support. Routinely publicise internal and external support pathways to staff.
3. Normalise mental health
Touch base regularly with your employees to check how they’re managing. Think about what might be causing them stress, and create space for them to raise issues.
4. Take stock
Include wellbeing as an agenda item at team meetings to discuss together, including what factors are affecting this. This helps normalise conversations about mental health and helps staff think more about their own and colleagues’ mental health.
5. Be available for your staff
Regular one-to-ones can help maintain good working relationships and build mutual trust. Managers should help staff to manage workload by ensuring work is clearly defined, by communicating expectations clearly, and by agreeing reasonable deadlines.
6. Treat people as individuals
Treat employees with respect, praise good work, offer support for skills gaps, and try to use a coaching style of management. Listen to your staff and flex your management style to suit the needs of each individual and task. Ask for feedback about the support you provide and what support they need to help achieve their goals.
7. Embed employee engagement
Promote a culture of open dialogue. Involve employees in decisions about how the team is run and how they do their job. Empower staff by using a management style that allows them to be autonomous, while ensuring they feel supported. Make sure employees understand their role in the bigger picture and make clear their contribution to the organisation’s vision and aims.
8. Create opportunities for coaching, learning and development
Make sure employees are supported to do their job to a high standard. You can help them build confidence and skills by developing and rewarding their capabilities, and by being available for regular work-related conversations as well as providing formal training.
9. Promote positive work relationships
Support a culture of teamwork and collaboration, both within the team and across the organisation. Role model these positive behaviours to staff. Develop a culture of praise which helps staff feel their efforts are recognised, and keep lines of communication open.
10. Raise awareness
Managers are in an excellent position to challenge stigma and prejudice throughout the organisation, and raise the mental health agenda with senior leadership.
This is the third in our series of guest blogs for Occupational Health Awareness Week 2022 (19-24th June). Dr E Sarah L Porter is an Occupational Physician and Chair of the SOM Northern Ireland Regional Group.