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Top tips for improving mental wellbeing for line managers

Advice and top tips

Top tips for improving mental wellbeing for line managers

Mental health issues are increasingly hitting the headlines, with high profile campaigns spearheaded by royalty and featured on Coronation Street – and a growing emphasis on emotional wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental health can be more difficult to identify and tackle than physical issues leading to decreased performance, increased absence, disengaged employees and lower retention rates.

Our recent Global Benefits Attitudes Survey revealed that one in ten UK employees have taken time off work in the past two years due to mental health – and a significant 80 per cent of those suffering with mental health tackle the problem alone.

This presents a real challenge for line managers and highlights the very real barriers which still exist for employees struggling alone.

Here we look at five key ways in which line managers can manage mental wellbeing.

1. Intervene early

Stress can escalate quickly, not only having a detrimental impact on the individual but also affecting a whole team if not dealt with effectively. Knowing what to look for can allow for early intervention.

Unhealthy stress levels can manifest in a number of physical symptoms and behavioural changes. Mental health charity MIND offers a useful guide to the signs and symptoms of stress, from regular bouts of colds, headaches and other minor illnesses and unusual tiredness to irritability or loss of humour.

Line managers also shouldn’t wait to be approached. Proactively checking in with employees on a regular basis is a simple but effective way of demonstrating a tangible commitment to duty of care, or conducting quick surveys asking employees to rank how their week has been on a scale of one to five.

2. Get the right professional help

Although lending an empathic, non-judgemental ear is a critical first step, it is important that line managers recognise when an employee is best being referred to a specialist counsellor or psychiatrist for help.

An Employee Assistance Programme can help staff to understand or overcome any personal concerns and resolve problems that are affecting work. Most EAP providers offer 24/7 telephone access to qualified and experienced counsellors, financial experts and lawyers with the opportunity to talk in total anonymous confidence.

3. Create a wider culture of support

Line managers can promote health and wellbeing by appointing local mental health champions, something that 44 per cent of the employers surveyed in Willis Towers Watson’s global Staying@Work survey are doing.

Giving workers the opportunity to suggest ideas for improving workplace stress can increase inclusion and engagement levels and encourage personal responsibility.

Attempts to normalise mental health can also help to diminish any associated stigma. Line managers can add the topic as a regular agenda item at team meetings, for example, or include the subject in internal newsletters.

Offering stress management support such as training workers on how to effectively manage high volume inboxes or how to deal with job pressures by promoting positive relationships between colleagues can enhance feelings of wellbeing.

The use of internal social media channels, such as Yammer, can facilitate internal networking, knowledge sharing and help employees build support networks within the organisation.

4. Communication is key

Our recent Benefits Barometer research found that employees are reluctant to open up to a line manager, with 41 per cent stating that the fear of the impact on their job prospects was the biggest barrier.

It is essential to promote a company’s open door policy clearly and regularly in internal communications vehicles, so employees feel confident and comfortable about turning to their line manager.

Reassuring employees that their issues are being taken seriously, reinforcing a ‘no-blame’ culture and regularly communicating with employees during any sickness absence can also help to alleviate these fears.

5. Adopt the personal touch

Viewing members of staff as individuals and recognising that everyone will have a unique approach to coping and reacting can go a long way. Care should be taken not to react dismissively to an employee’s concerns to avoid the risk of feelings of alienation and disengagement.

Supporting workers with specific health conditions can ensure that they feel individually heard and valued. Empathy training for line managers can help ensure interactions are sensitively undertaken, promoting mutual understanding.

Having a personal approach will create confidence about talking through issues with line managers before they escalate.