4 strategies for managing mental health in your teams

There has never been a more pivotal time to manage the mental health and wellbeing of your people!.

New data on the impact of Covid19 on wellbeing is showing us the following are significantly impacting people’s mental health and wellbeing;

  • how much space an employee has in their home;
  • whether they have got a proper workstation;
  • the boundaries are blurred between home and work
  • no ‘spatial’ commute to be able to separate work and home mentally
  • zoom fatigued
  • change of season and coming into winter
  • clocks have just changed in the UK affecting light levels

While there is more of a routine and a rhythm to the way we are working, there is still very little light at the end of the tunnel.

Many employees continue to work from home, while vast numbers remain on furlough.

We’ve got people coming back to the workplace, like the hospitality industry, and now having to close down again in certain areas of the UK.

There remain significant amounts of uncertainty.  Things that we are unable to control, and that doesn’t bode well for people because human beings, we like certainty!

We like to be able to predict the future. We like to feel that we have a sense of control.  Therefore, this whole pandemic is really pushing us out of our comfort zone.

How are you – really?

As a manager, managing people’s mental health can be tricky at the best of times, but it’s even more tricky when you’re having to manage that remotely.

When you don’t have the in-person cues that you would normally have when you’re face-to-face with somebody, managing somebody’s mental health can be very uncomfortable online.

People can find themselves hiding behind their computers, especially if they haven’t got the camera on. How do you know what they’re experiencing? What signs have you got to pick up from?

It’s wonderful to see that so many more organizations are investing in how to manage mental health in the workplace, and focusing on online courses about mental health awareness, because the whole topic of mental health, it’s a huge one!.

And mental health really does exist on this big spectrum. Doesn’t it?

At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got people that are just not feeling great. And hey, we can all put our hands up and say that we’ve had a day, an hour, a week even when we felt like that. When we suddenly have got back into our exercise classes and our gym classes, and then suddenly, with circuit breaks, we’re not able to access those resources that would normally really help and be a positive contributing factor to our mental health.

So there’s lots of understandable and rational reasons why we might just be having a little bit of a wobble that we might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

We might be feeling a bit down and certainly at this time of year, when the light levels change, we’ve got people that may be experiencing the onset of seasonal affective disorder. then the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got very severe cases.

We’ve got people that are really experiencing debilitating anxiety that they’re experiencing clinical depression, that are experiencing trauma. Maybe they’ve been affected by loved ones, passing away from coronavirus. And they’ve not been able to spend the last few months of their life with them.

So it’s very understandable why people’s mental health is being impacted, but managing that as a manager, if you don’t know, what’s what, if you don’t understand these conditions, it can be a bit like trying to find a light switch in the dark.

The fear of making things worse

A manager’s greatest challenge when it comes to the management of mental health is fear.

The fear of getting something wrong, the fear of making something worse.

The fear of having a conversation with somebody about their mental health and the fear of “if I ask a question, is it going to suddenly tip that individual over the edge?”

That fear that stops them from maybe probing a little bit deeper, a fear of the questions that they are asking are a bit too personal.  Even the fear of not knowing what to say.

And when it comes to fear, fear stops us in our tracks. Fear is about our survival response. It’s the classic fight flight freeze response.

So if you’re a manager, if you’ve got managers in your organization and they’re feeling this fear about addressing something with their team, then the path of least resistance is to not do anything.

The path of least resistance can be to just pop their head in the sand and just hope that the issue gets resolved by the individual.

4 strategies for managing mental health in your teams

1. Don’t make assumptions

I often hear managers say that their team seem to be okay. And I would say in response, “how do you know that?” Like a Swan gliding over a river, they can seem to have this wonderful, effortless flow state, but underneath they’re paddling away like mad. As a manager, what is it that you’re seeing or you’re hearing, or you’re feeling that lets you know that your people are okay, or rather not okay?

2. Build Trust

Building trust is so key. And this is one thing that we talk about in our management mental health training program is how to build trust both consciously and unconsciously. One of the biggest ways that you can create trust is also through being vulnerable yourself. I hear a lot of managers that say that their behaviour is manager led. So if we want people to feel that they can come to us, that they can speak to us, they can talk to us, what is it about us that we’re projecting that creates that unconscious understanding that I’m safe to be vulnerable with my manager? that I can trust that my manager’s got my best interests? that if I speak that I’m not going to be judged? I’m not going to be discriminated against

3. Be the change that you want to see in your people

As a manager what behaviors are you demonstrating about working smarter and not harder? We can talk about wellbeing in the workplace until the cows come home. However, a lot of behaviour is manager led so it creates this unconscious level of expectation. As a manager if you are working 10, 11, 12 hour possibly even longer days. If you’re sending emails at the weekend on a morning, late at night, if you have rammed your diary back to back, and you’re not creating any break times in between, if you’re not taking a proper lunch break to recharge your batteries, to plug yourself into nature so that you are more productive, then you are going to be creating this level of expectation within your team that that’s what’s expected.

And the reason that that’s dangerous is because there is so much fear around at the moment, not just fear of coronavirus, but financial insecurity.  As humans we’re going to do whatever it is that we can to feel safe, to be safe, to make sure that our basic human needs are met. And that involves being able to keep a roof over our head and food on the table.

If we see our manager working at full pelt, then at some level, that’s communicating that in order to keep your job, that this is what’s expected.

4. Signpost your people

One of the many things that we teach your managers on the management mental health training is that it’s not your job as a manager to fix people. And we certainly wouldn’t have that expectation of any manager.

We’re not trying to turn managers into mini psychiatrists. That’s our job at the mind solution as private therapists and trainers and teachers.

But what you can be as a manager is proactive in signposting your people to internal resources that they have. For example, one of the things that we provide organizations with is our employee wellbeing portal, a wonderful digital wellbeing portal that is absolutely chockablock with powerful resources to help people and their wellbeing.

We can forget sometimes what’s available to us. So being that proactive person, helping your people to get help sooner rather than later can make a massive difference.

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