To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week here are some achievable steps for founders to help ensure every team member’s mental wellbeing is supported.
While budgets and resources may be squeezed at the moment, with difficult decisions having to be made on costs and staff contracts, more than ever it is important that individuals take care of their mental health wellbeing.
Unfortunately 80% of people living with mental illness who responded to a recent survey by charity Rethink Mental Illness said that coronavirus and the measures to contain it have made their mental health worse, including 28% stating that it is “much worse”.
As a leader you should, if you’re not already, ensure your everyday working culture supports mental health as much as possible. Try and provide access to online mental health tools such as those teaching mindfulness and highlight the benefits of exercise to wellbeing.
Consider providing wearables, such as the Moodbeam tracker, that allows individuals to record their mood so that they can spot trends and combat causes of anxiety or stress. There are plenty of free resources too. Heads Together is a good place to start with links to a range of mental health organisations, some of which focus on a core group such as parents, men or under-25s.
Helping teams cope with disruption
Covid-19 has caused unprecedented disruption and change to all aspects of our lives. According to Mental Health Foundation, any change process can be a challenge for employees’ mental health. It says that, “If you have to plan a change process, you can balance some of the obvious stressful aspects by ensuring that decisions are communicated effectively, that people have as much time as practically possible to digest decisions, and that support is made available both within the workplace and via external support like employee assistance programmes.”
Redundancies will be inevitable across all sizes of business and the Foundation advises that for individuals with mental health problems, the possibility of such change can be especially stressful. They may be especially fearful of being made redundant and may need extra support, or, conversely, may not put themselves forward for promotion when they are suitable. So if you have member of your team who you know has a history of mental health problems, it is worth specifically adjusting for this when planning change.
The Mental Health Foundation has a helpful guide on evidence-based ways to improve your mental health during work which can be used as a checklist for your team. These include:
- Talk about your feelings
- Keep active
- Eat well
- Drink sensibly
- Keep in touch with others
- Ask for help when needed
- Take a break
- Do something you’re good at and enjoy
- Accept who you are
- Care for others
Try to help your team look at the benefits rather than the negatives about working remotely. There are no doubt drawbacks for mental wellbeing, as mentioned above, but consider what your team is enjoying about it and highlight that. Communication is key to prevent people feeling isolated or becoming overwhelmed with work pressures. Create peer support networks so that colleagues can support one another and take time to celebrate success whenever possible.
You may have already needed to furlough employees or will have to in the coming weeks. Those on furlough have to adjust to a significant change and leaders need to remember that each team member will be in a unique situation and will react differently. Charity organisation Mental Health UK offers advice on how to support the mental wellbeing of furloughed staff here.
Head of Workplace Wellbeing Emma Mamo at Mind, has put together some tips not just for how to manage employees mental health but how managers and founders should look after themselves. This is includes ensuring that, even as the work piles up, it is vital to maintain a semblance of work/life balance, away from the laptop.