How leaders can commit to mentally healthy teams
As we approach World Mental Health Day on October 10, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on what it really means to be committed to improving mental health within teams. These global days of recognition are good reminders to check in with one another and they can be great for raising awareness, but too many people see it as a one time event to host a morning tea or hand out a flyer with information and call it a day. It seems as though mental health is on everyone’s minds, but a lot of leaders aren’t willing to put in the hard yards each day.
Shallow gestures aren’t enough
Unfortunately, many leaders think that they can improve their team’s mental health by increasing the amount of praise and recognition. Whether it’s verbally appreciating their work or sending through perks, recognition and rewards do have their place. For some people, this might be exactly what they need. However, this practice can turn into something shallow and lose credibility, one that team members recognise as leaders simply ‘ticking a box’ and getting some positivity in for the day, regardless of whether it has meaning or not.
This is not to say that leaders shouldn’t praise their team for appropriate and deserving work, but committing to mental health requires digging a little deeper and looking for what teams really need.
Over the last eighteen months, many teams have been working from home. This has been a great opportunity to understand the way different people respond in the face of a challenge and, in turn, how leadership efforts can make a huge difference. Some people struggle working from home because they can’t read the room to know how others are feeling and convey their own struggles, others find themselves working in an environment that isn’t conducive to work, making it difficult to stay on top of things, while still others just find the monotony of the day hard to overcome without the social setting of the office. All of these things can, over time, have a negative impact on mental health.
For every person, there are unique struggles, and there are unique ways leaders can assist them. A daily check-in using video conference can help those within the team who need that connection to propel them forward, the ability to utilise flexible hours can help those who need to homeschool or care for others during the typical workday, while fun online meetings where silliness and laughter is a priority can be a great help to boost the mood of those struggling working alone.
This is by no means an exhaustive list! However, it’s all about getting to the heart of the struggles of your team and making changes that really help, not just throwing generic solutions out and hoping they’ll improve wellbeing.
Consistency is key
Mental health, just like physical health, is important for sustaining wellbeing. Efforts to improve mental health can’t be a one-off – just like going for one walk a year will do next to nothing for your physical health. Building momentum to sustain mental health is important.
Whatever the struggles of your team, leaders need to be sure that solutions can be implemented consistently. A morning tea and an informative email or flyer isn’t enough. Leaders should be looking for ways to check in with their team regularly – whether it’s formally or informally – so they understand what’s going on and what can be done to alleviate any pressure.
Throughout particularly challenging times – like the current lockdown and working from home requirements – leaders need to be even more alert and intentional. It’s not as easy to check in over lunch or pass each other in the hallway, so leaders need to be booking time aside to get to the heart of what’s going on for their team. Pressures can come from anywhere and not all of them can be solved with one conversation, but leaders should be actively looking for ways they can play a part in boosting the mental health of their team.
Are you ready to prioritise mental health in your team? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.