Harry Bliss, CEO of Champion Health, uses his experience as a leader to offer practical tips for prioritising employee mental health.
Navigating a new world of employee mental wellbeing
The world of employee wellbeing has changed over the last decade. We’ve gone from mental health being a taboo topic to something we must nurture for ourselves and our organisations to thrive. We’re moving from a culture where burnout is admired and respected to one where it’s perceived as unhealthy and unproductive.
As attitudes towards mental health change in society, leadership is changing and evolving too. Employee mental wellbeing is now a top priority for leaders and HR managers.
But prioritizing employee mental well-being is becoming increasingly challenging. The mental health of our people continues to be tested in new and difficult ways, and both leaders and employees are having to navigate their way through an unpredictable and fast-changing world.
The Champion Health team and I examined the effect of this in The Workplace Health Report: 2022. Our research found that 58% of working professionals are experiencing at least mild symptoms of anxiety, 52% are experiencing symptoms of depression and 67% are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that by taking the right steps, every organization can improve the mental health of its people.
In this article, you’ll discover practical tips for prioritising employee mental health that have resonated with my experience as a CEO.
To look after others, look after yourself first
The first step towards helping your team is to prioritise your mental wellbeing. As compassionate leaders, this can easily be forgotten about. But, to look after those around you, you first need to look after yourself.
Make sure you’re taking that time to concentrate on your mental fitness. That could involve prioritising your sleep, exercising regularly, reading daily, or anything that works for you. I try to set aside a minimum of 20 minutes each day to do something that I find rewarding. It sounds simple but taking time for self-care is something that’s easily forgotten.
As a leader, you’re also not immune from experiencing tough times yourself. The old leadership style would be to grin, bear it, and put on a brave face; but there’s huge power in vulnerability.
If you feel comfortable doing so, open up to your employees about your mental health in an authentic way. By doing this, you’ll help to break down the stigma surrounding employee mental health, which allows your employees to bring their whole selves to work – struggles and all.
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t
As I alluded to above, it’s impossible to prevent everyone from struggling; and, at times, you will need to intervene and offer support. The key to success is doing this earlier rather than later. Noticing the warning signs when a colleague is struggling can be difficult especially if you work remotely or you don’t see them that often.
There are, however, a variety of things you might notice – some of which are less obvious than others. The one thing I would say is this: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. For example, you might notice that your colleague doesn’t seem quite themselves. They might start turning up late, acting snappy, or being unusually quiet. This is the time to check in with your colleague and ask them how they are.
When you do this, there’s no substitute for demonstrating compassion and empathy throughout the conversation. Being able to understand where someone is coming from and following up with them after that meeting can mean the world to your colleague. It’s also important as a leader to know your limits including when and how you can help.
To do this, find out what your organisation offers for employee wellbeing and communicate it clearly and regularly with your team. You might also want to suggest other resources such as helplines and charities outside of your organisation that can provide support.
Get the team involved
As a leader, it’s important to recognise that supporting employee mental health isn’t solely dependent on you. For workplaces to thrive, it shouldn’t only be leadership who supports the wellbeing of the team but everybody else as well.
Placing sole emphasis on leadership to spot possible warning signs and pick up every mental wellbeing issue is at best, unrealistic, and at worst, disastrous.
Instead, view leadership’s role as giving everyone the opportunity to look out for and support each other. When this is achieved, teams thrive.
An easy way of doing this is to share emotional wellbeing resources throughout your team and organisation. Reaching every employee may seem a little excessive, but the simple reason why humans thrive in the workplace – and will never be replaced by robots – is due to our emotional intelligence. The more you can invest in this, the better things will be.
Showing you care can go a long way
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting employee mental wellbeing, but simply showing you care can go a long way. By keeping your focus on your people’s mental wellbeing and ensuring it’s a need-to-have rather than a nice-to-have, you’ll make an impact.
The leaders and organisations who make that impact will be the ones that come out on top.
About Champion Health
Award-winning entrepreneur, Harry Bliss is the CEO and co-founder of Champion Health. Driven by a mission to make healthier easier for the people that power organizations, Harry founded Champion in 2018.
Since then, he has grown the company into a market-leading workplace health provider, which is used globally by leading organizations.
Harry’s passion, drive, and authenticity have also led to him being recognized as a notable name in the well-being space.
He’s the host of the 12 Minutes of Workplace Health Podcast, which gives well-being experts a platform to share their insights about the current well-being challenges facing organizations
Champion Health is a partner of Cardinus. If you would like to find out more about Champion Health, please email [email protected].