A conversation with a former colleague recently threw up the subject of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. She commented that, in her view, it was one of the biggest issues that businesses face in the modern work environment.
It is very difficult to argue with this. All organizations are facing a perfect storm of austerity, Brexit, shareholder demands and a rapidly developing digital age. In my many years working, I have never known a time like it, with the pace of change significant.
Unless technology has already taken your job (a very real experience for many), this ‘perfect storm’ of stuff lands in the employee’s lap.
I struggled myself a few years ago and I know firsthand how disabling this can be. My own ‘perfect storm’ was a very challenging and stressful job alongside a very difficult domestic situation. The combined effect was causing me to lose sleep, feeling tearful and a complete haze fogging my brain with every decision I had to take.
Whilst many businesses will talk about how the mental health and wellbeing of their employees is an absolute priority, how many are walking the walk and not just talking about it?
I was lucky. I worked in an environment where people cared about me and showed concern because they could see a change in me as an individual.
But I still hear so many stories relating to people being overworked, under resourced and generally unable to cope, but not with an understanding line manager comfortable to face into this difficult time with them. Indeed, many line managers will just stick their heads in the sand.
I heard the phrase “man up” this morning on the radio. If ever there was an outdated phrase, both from a gender perspective but also in what it is recommending the person do, ‘man up’ is right up there.
Would you tell someone who suffers from depression to ‘snap out of it’?
I saw a fantastic post on Linkedin this morning from an HR professional who was entering a meeting with someone who had been taking a lot of time out of work sick. Rather than go into this meeting armed with paperwork and policies, she simply sat down and talked with the person. An open conversation revealed that this individual was struggling to cope with their job and enabled a much more constructive discussion about how they could be supported.
Most organization’s target individuals and teams on the results they deliver. If a greater emphasis was given to how the results were achieved, and the wellbeing of the team members and the line managers involvement into this, there would surely be less fall out for individuals not being able to cope. It would also result in a far more sustainable model for success.
There is no mystery to what line managers should be doing.
Get to know your team so you can see the changes when they happen. Keep talking to everyone in your team. Give them the opportunity to open up and show vulnerability. And make sure that if you are a line manager yourself, you also have that outlet, and don’t be afraid to show your own vulnerability to your team.
And please don’t tell them to ‘man up’!