Continuing the trend - How to keep talking about mental health in the workplace

Celebrating openness and honesty about mental health even when it’s NOT Mental Health Awareness week.

The week just past was one of bright social media posts, sharing of resources, and conversations about mental health, especially about it in the workplace. This is fantastic, encouraging, and heart warming to know that businesses do take mental health seriously, as it is a big contributor to the pulse of the workforce.

The qualm is with businesses that have ticked the box of posting on LinkedIn about Mental Health Awareness Week, and now will go onto the next tick box exercise, making sure to use the right hashtags to meet that engagement goal. Too many times this type of awareness campaign is a flash-in-the-pan for businesses to jump on the bandwagon and follow the trend but is not backed up with in-office actions or continued encouragement.

So – without just being a negative nancy – the point is about how we continue these conversations. How do we make sure team members feel comfortable or safe to talk about their mental health to the team leader, manager, or colleague?

Here are 5 ways to continue the conversations around mental health in the workplace:

1.Talk about it yourself. Individually. Especially if you are in a position of leadership. Talk about how you had a rough weekend with the kids, or how you’re feeling a bit flat and uninspired at the moment. This will make your colleagues feel like they have a safe space to share and realise that their manager or team leader is, in fact, human.

2.Make sure your wider business has tools that can help employees that need support. For smaller businesses, this could be as small as allowing team members to take a couple of hours to attend a counselling session or doctor’s appointment (as healthcare services don’t typically have appointments available outside business hours) and not expecting them to take annual leave as this puts extra pressure on staff. For larger businesses, EAP services are a fantastic way to encourage your team to reach out for support.

3.Continue conversations on social media. Following pages such as Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and Groov (co-founded by John Kirwan) are fantastic sources of resources, and consistently share content that is easy to repost and share to your own networks. The bonus here is that your customers and staff will also see this and know that you are paying attention, but also these pages which really do the mental health mahi will also be promoted.

4.Use a buddy system. We know that connection helps. These buddy systems in the workplace are a great way to make sure that everyone has someone to go to if they need to, and, as a bonus, also encourages inter-department socialisation. Include this in induction, introduce your new team member to their buddy and make sure their buddy knows to keep an eye out for them and check in occasionally.

5.Flexibility is everything. If you’re not offering flexibility in your workplace – it’s time to get on board. Flexibility encourages staff to take breaks when they need it, go home earlier, or start later if they have other priorities such as family or personal appointments. Flexibility opens the door for team members to have the time to prioritise other things (like mental health) above work when needed. It doesn’t have to be flexibility about working from home if that doesn’t suit your business, but just offering flexibility in hours during the day will make a world of difference to your team.

Let’s continue to korerō about mental health, even after Mental Health Awareness Week!