Nearly 50 million Americans experience a mental health illness in their lifetime, according to Mental Health America’s State of Mental Health in America. As the workplace evolves, teams are looking to their leaders to cultivate and embrace a culture that prioritizes employee mental health.
If you’re managing a team in 2022, the resources you can use to help promote a healthy working environment are growing by the day. However, the basics continue to be simple. Research shows a high correlation between open communication and the overall wellness of work environments. As a leader, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel or completely transform your current strategy. Here are 5 ways managers can create an environment that is conducive to an employee’s mental health.
Create Spaces to Talk
With less than 1 in 3 employees feeling like their leaders communicate efficiently, many employees are simply looking for a safe outlet to communicate. Managers should make a point to schedule one-on-one chats over the phone or video regularly with each member of your team. Group communications like sharing tips, info and support via internal social channels around mental health for employees, or even informal weekly morning coffee chats can be helpful in creating channels of communication. While creating spaces for informal talks that blend work and personal topics are great, also promote and host executive office hours that employees can sign up for if they need more one-on-one time discussing career goals and other work-related discussions.
Finally, remember that communication should always be a two-way street. Encourage feedback, ask how employees are doing, and most importantly, always keep the lines of communication open and authentic.
Whether in person or remote, find ways to enjoy time together with your team. Hosting a themed game night, virtual happy hour, trivia night, cooking competition or costume contest, there are a variety of ways to bring a team together, even if located across the country. Also, if mainly remote and if budgets and safety allow, having an annual summit that brings your team together in one place to bond and grow as a team. Discuss with your team what hobbies they enjoy and implement them in your team-building activities. Check out this list of 52 virtual team bonding activities aimed at boosting employee morale and mental health to help get you started.
Encourage Activity & Wellness
Studies have shown that a break as small as 30-seconds can increase productivity by 13%. Encourage your team to take the breaks they need throughout the day in order to focus on their well-being daily. Share employee wellness resources for healthy habits, like free workout apps, meditation opportunities and meal suggestions to help support a balanced lifestyle. Lead the way by providing opportunities to take active breaks while keeping your team energized and productive, such as getting outdoors when possible. Most importantly, everyone takes a break differently; while some activities might be optional, be clear that however your team chooses to, it’s fine to take a break for their well-being as an employee and individual.
Focus on Family
As the move towards fully remote roles continues to become more prevalent in the tech industry, many workers are seeing the benefits of things like spending more time with family, but with that comes the familiar sights of kids in the background during conference calls, pets making a cameo appearance in team meetings, and just a newer outlook of what a “work-life balance” really is. While remote work has led to the seemingly inevitable blending of family life into work projects, managers can embrace this new normal, working with employees to create schedules and plans that fit around these new family needs. Plus, embrace the fun of all the new co-workers around the house. Invite employees to bring kids into meetings if they want to, you never truly know where the next great idea will come from!
Finally, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Celebrate your team’s successes whenever you can, and make sure to give credit to those who have gone above and beyond. As former Timmy Award Winner Stacey Yudin said, "In order for an employee to actually feel appreciated and flourish, we must create a workplace environment conducive to their success." Make sure your employees feel valued for the hard work they’ve been doing. Additionally, continue to recognize milestones virtually that you normally would in person, like work anniversaries and birthdays. These small efforts will go a long way toward building a culture that promotes the well-being of all employees.
Whatever tactics you choose to implement, it’s important to be empathetic and cognizant of the challenges your team is facing. No matter if your team is fully remote, working in-person or in a hybrid setup, creating a people-first culture for your employees will lead to more engaged employees. A positive workplace environment depends on the health and wellness of each individual employee, and that starts with every leader providing the necessary tools to thrive.
Note: This is an updated version of the previously written blog: Managing Employee Mental Health and Well-Being as a Leader