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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – so what better time to focus on how your colleagues are feeling? According to the charity Mind, 1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health problem. And work is often the trigger, with long hours, high expectations and constant change all stretching your people further than they can manage.
So, what can businesses do?
One simple but highly effective option is to focus on the ‘check-in’ conversation. Encourage your line managers to check in with their teams, and your employees to check in with each other. Go one step further by making those conversations an integral part of your culture.
The line manager check-in
According to a recent article in Personnel Today, line managers play a pivotal role in supporting mental health. Dr Fiona Syme, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Clarity Psychology, says allowing colleagues to feel they can trust and confide in managers, helps people feel less anxious. Make sure your managers understand the opportunity they have to make a difference, and support them with these tips:
- Make it quick: A five-minute pep talk or quick ‘How are you?’ can make a huge difference
- Go for regular: Book a daily chat via text or Teams to make it a priority.
- Learn the signs: Is the bubbly personality of the team suddenly a bit quiet? Has the colleague who always joins casual catch ups suddenly stopped? Early conversations can be crucial.
- Have the right tools: Give managers clear guidance so that they know 1) What support your company offers 2) What to do if they suspect somebody is struggling.
The peer-to-peer check-in
It’s not all about the line managers. Most of us will spend more time with work colleagues than with our loved ones – around a third of our lives is spent at work! – so looking after each other is key. Help employees check in with their colleagues by:
- Teaching conversation starters: Even our best friends can struggle to ask us about our mental health. Give colleagues the tools to help each other open up.
- Signposting: Make sure people know where to turn if a colleague is struggling.
- Going online: In a digital age, conversations can feel easier when they’re not face-to-face. Think about ways to help your people support each other online.
The check-in culture
With businesses losing £61billion a year to issues surrounding mental health, it’s well worth embedding positive mental conversations into your culture. Here’s how:
Give permission: People often don’t speak up because they worry about the repercussions. Make sure your people know they can open up and feel listened to, without worrying they’ll be penalised.
Publish it: Longer term, include ‘Looking after each other’ or similar into your values or behaviours, even building it into your recognition programme.
Role modelling: Encourage your leaders to check in with their direct reports.
Want to make mental health conversations a bigger part of your business culture? Then start with a conversation with us!