For many years, we’ve been told that grit, determination, and hard work will lead you to success in the workplace. However, the path to success looks quite different today, given pandemic realities that have required all of us to demonstrate resilience. Team members, leaders, and organizations are now supporting the “It’s okay to not be okay” mentality and highlighting the importance of mental health both in and outside of the workplace.
Prioritizing mental health is an important reality for leaders to enhance individual well-being, team health, and organizational culture. While we all would agree that employees’ mental health details can be intimate and at the discretion of the individual to share, employers can play a significant role to ensure that employees feel engaged, productive, and motivated while at work. When we are connected and feel mentally healthy, we often have a stronger sense of purpose, the stamina to work through challenging parts of our jobs, and experience success.
5 Ways to Engage Employees
Even in the most uncertain times, the primary role of a leader is to support their team. This includes supporting their mental health. Leaders can take steps toward engaging their employees by creating an inclusive and flexible work environment where they feel valued and have the tools to prioritize their own mental health. The good news is that many of the tools you need to do so are the same ones that make you an effective manager.
- Implement Team Building Events
Building and sustaining relationships at work is key. Think about relationships outside of work — when we create relationships with others, we feel more connected and engaged. The same holds true for the workplace; relationships help us feel engaged and a part of something bigger than ourselves. It also creates a more collaborative environment for cross-functional teams. Consider scheduling organizational events like team trivia, lunch outings, volunteer days, or virtual happy hours to maintain the strong culture that already exists.
- Prioritize Work-life Balance
While work-life balance can be the cost of leadership and difficult to achieve, organizations can take steps toward enhancing it. This includes encouraging employees to take breaks, blocking off an hour for lunch, using PTO, setting boundaries for emails/calls, reviewing workloads, and prioritizing flexibility in schedules.
Consider, for example, those companies that promote work-life balance through the concept of sleep leadership where CEOs encourage employees to dedicate 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, and the 8 hours in between to enjoy life.
- Provide Mental Health and Wellness Workshops
Leaders can start the mental health conversation, without getting personal, by calling upon and leveraging the skill of the experts. Many professionals can speak about mental health and wellness and share resources available to employees, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): free and confidential mental health services.
- Offer Flexibility, if Possible
If possible, give employees the flexibility to set their working hours, especially if they are working remotely. By doing so, your employees can schedule appointments or spend time with their families without stressing about their work schedule. Then, they will be able to give their full attention to their work during the hours that work for them.
- Utilize Mindfulness Apps
A simple and effective way leaders can reduce stress is with subscriptions to mindfulness apps, such as Headspace For Work or Calm For Business. These science-backed apps can help build healthier organizations from the inside out by reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus and energy, practicing mindfulness, and more.
Mental Health Beyond The Workplace
It’s important to prioritize mental health at work, not only to increase performance but more importantly, to improve overall well-being. The same holds true beyond the workplace — consider college campuses, for example, which struggle to address the elevated mental health crisis, along with dropout rates increasing as a result of the pandemic.
Prioritizing mental health is not just a way to enhance workplace culture; it sets the foundation for success. This is not an overnight change; take small steps toward creating a healthier future for yourself, your team members, and your organization.