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11 December 2021

Making Your Employees’ Mental Health a Priority in 2022

It’s been great to see the emphasis more people are putting on mental health over the past couple of years, particularly in the workplace. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 72% of their survey respondents use one or more strategies, excluding formal services, to manage their mental wellbeing. This is a great number, but we can do more as managers to help support this process and ensure wellbeing is maintained as well as possible.

The mental wellbeing of your staff is incredibly important to the functioning of your business, not to mention how we engage as human beings. When moods are low, it can affect productivity, absenteeism, and the wellbeing of those around them.

What is mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.

Despite its prevalence, however, (1 in 6 people likely have some form of mental illness) it’s reported that 50% of managers think no one in their workplace is affected by mental health issues (Black Dog Institute).

Noticing behaviour changes in your team

Not everyone will feel comfortable coming directly to you with how they’re feeling, but there are things you can look out for that could indicate there’s something wrong. The Black Dog Institute lists these changes in behaviour to look out for:

  • Changes in routine (stopping participation in sport, social activities)
    talking about unusual/disturbing thoughts
  • Reporting or demonstrating symptoms associated with high levels of anxiety and/or lowered mood
  • Lowered concentration and performance
  • Reduced motivation
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decreased personal care
  • Use of drugs (illegal and/or legal) or alcohol
  • Reduced activity and energy
  • High levels of irritability or aggression

If you notice any of these behaviours, you should reach out to the person to show that you’re available to support them however you can.

Ways you can improve mental wellbeing

1. Regularly spend time with your employees talking about everyday topics, even if it’s a virtual conversation. It can be more difficult to notice changes in people’s behaviour when we only discuss work topics, so it’s important to maintain some level of personal relationship as much as possible.

2. If you don’t already have one, implementing an Employee Assistance Program can provide much-needed access to confidential, free support to employees who need it.

3. Accept that some employees will need to take time away from work purely for their mental health. By extending ‘sick leave’ to include mental wellbeing days, it shows your employees that you value mental health just as much as physical health. It also means that if someone doesn’t feel 100% comfortable explaining they need time away for mental reasons, they don’t need to.

4. Encourage healthy boundaries between work and home life. While some roles and responsibilities mean you do need to be available for large parts of the day, most of the time nothing will explode if it’s left until the next workday. Encourage your employees to disconnect from work things like Slack and emails until they’re back in the office.

5. Acknowledge good work, people who’ve gone above and beyond, and when people have accomplished a difficult task. This can be done in any number of ways and should always be tweaked to suit the individual where possible, so it’s a genuine offer of appreciation. Obviously, though, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest My Rewards as a great way of showing recognition to your team members.

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