Lessons for Leaders 55: Keeping the Focus on Mental Health

Keeping the Focus on Mental Health

After mental health awareness week last week, I’m talking today about keeping the focus on mental health going throughout the entire year.

Keeping the Focus on Mental Health

After mental health awareness week last week, I’m talking today about how to keep the focus on mental health going throughout the entire year.   Now, if you’re wondering (or even groaning) at the thought of having this on your to-do list all year round, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Keeping the Focus on Mental Health

Now, if you’re wondering (or even groaning) at the thought of having this on your to-do list all year round, it doesn’t have to be like that.

  • Get employees to know you’re taking MH seriously
  • Easy ways to make that happen
  • Key ways to ensure you’re walking the talk
  • A terrible example of support – so you don’t make that mistake
  • What your plan should include

We do have to recognise that mental health needs a continued focus because it is the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace.

Therefore, with the pandemic highlighting the issue and workplaces opening up more, it’s not surprising that employers are starting to look more closely at the crucial role they play in supporting the wellbeing of their staff.

We know employers come in all shapes and sizes, with different working practices and environments; but all organisations, whatever their size, will be:

  • equipped with the awareness and tools to both address and prevent mental ill-health which is caused or worsened by work
  • equipped to support people with a mental health condition to thrive, from recruitment and throughout the organisation
  • aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health

I talk to companies who I can often split into two groups:

  1. Have wellbeing plans in place but then struggle to find dedicated targeted support for specific areas like stress, burnout, sleep and finances
  2. Have bits and pieces of ideas and activities but no clear plan pulling things together

Now, before we go on, I want to congratulate everyone who has things in place, because there are still a ton of companies who haven’t even started.

In addition, HR and leaders are often doing these plans in addition to their usual role and, although it’s great to see some companies having specific wellbeing leads and separate roles, not everyone has the ability.

If you want to talk to me about ideas, plugging the gaps, meeting the specific needs of your company, enhancing daily, weekly, monthly behaviours and embedding them into organisational value so you’re getting a strategy, policies or plans sorted, then please do get in touch.  Looking at overarching strategies has been something I’ve done for a long time, since back in my corporate days, so I’m happy to help.

How do we get employees to know that the focus on mental health is serious?

Start with focus groups (I can run these for you) or surveys.  Find out how people are, what they need.  Designing your plan with input from employees boosts buy-in and gives you a clearer idea of the support they might need.  Building your plan with input from employees from across the organisation builds their commitment to supporting their own mental health and that of their colleagues. Trust and integrity are key drivers of engagement.

Train your managers with how to confidently have conversations with your people so that 1:1’s actually do take place regularly and, when they do, they are effective, not just paying lip service.  If you’re back in the office, these can be on the move, out of the office / workplace environment and often get to the crux of the matter more quickly too. 

Walk the talk.  Encouraging staff to work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks, rest and recuperate after busy periods, avoid working at weekends and take their full annual leave entitlement can all help avoid burnout.  AND make sure you do that yourself.  There’s a ton of benefits of demonstrating this but also in delegating, and trust your teams when you’re not there (which is in my plan for future podcast episodes).

What’s available?  When your people highlight a struggle what do you do?  You might have had my training on confident conversation and spotting issues, but then what?  Your mental health at work plan should detail what support is available to employees if they are experiencing poor mental health, whether it’s due to problems inside or outside of work.

Listen in for my story of a terrible experience with an EAP.

I talked previously about the 7 steps to winning wellbeing plan in order to create a positive culture where people feel able to talk about their mental health. Make sure your plan is formally written down and will show your current and future employees that you care about their wellbeing.

For expert guidance and support for employers who want to support their staff’s mental health, please contact me.

Often, employees are scared to talk to their manager and problems can spiral. Your action plan should aim to raise awareness of mental health by:

  • embedding mental health in induction and training
  • celebrating key dates in the mental health calendar
  • running internal communication campaigns

Senior leaders should promote employee wellbeing by:

  • speaking out about mental health
  • supporting a campaign to encourage all staff to take lunch breaks and work healthy hours

When staff feel involved and well-informed about what’s happening in the organisation, it increases motivation and helps people understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. Your action plan should set out how you will involve staff by using methods such as:

  • staff surveys and focus groups
  • staff forums and diversity networks
  • engagement steering groups
  • monthly or quarterly performance review meetings

Your mental health plan should outline ways in which you provide staff with learning and development opportunities including:

  • coaching
  • training
  • hold ‘lunch and learn’ sessions’ – these are a great way to support staff to take their full lunch break away from their desk

Organisations need to send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters.

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If you want to be increasing your performance so you’re more resilient in these current times, can focus easily, and use tools and techniques to deal with all the current and unknown challenges then make sure that you either drop me an email to emma@emmalangton.com or use the online diary to arrange a time for a chat.

This post discusses: emmalangton, leadership, mentalhealth, wellbeing
Emma Langton

Emma Langton

Executive Leadership Coach

Emma hosts the Lessons for Leaders podcast. Each week she brings you lessons, learnings, tips and advice to enable you to lead with ease in business, without stress, doubt and overwhelm so that I help you to increase your performance, be resilient and thrive in life. Emma has been providing coaching, training and therapeutic support for executives since setting up her business in 2011. Prior to that she spent over 20 years with people at the top of national and multi-national training and communication businesses.


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