While the shift towards seeing workplace wellbeing as 'core business' has made considerable progress, more work needs to be done
It’s no secret that ensuring the wellbeing of your employees is no easy feat. Former strangers from all walks of life are put into one place to spend most of their waking hours relying on each other in an environment with regular stressors and pressures. Everyone is different, everyone is busy and there can be thousands of factors within a workplace that contribute to its culture which each have their own causes and effects.
While the shift towards seeing workplace wellbeing as ‘core business’ has made considerable progress, more work needs to be done.
The good news is that engaging in workplace wellbeing initiatives doesn’t have to be a costly, complex or drawn-out process. The most important thing is to start. Some businesses we work with say that smaller initiatives are the most enjoyable part of the process and that having a few ‘quick wins’ helps to build momentum and bring people along on the way.
These ‘quick wins’ can be adapted to your organisation and implemented at any stage of your wellbeing journey. They will create opportunities for staff to spend more positive time together which helps to build better interpersonal connections and improve morale.
Make a positive start
The chances are that many businesses are already engaging in a wide range of actions to promote workplace mental health, but without having a name or structure to their program.
Some of these things will be obvious, like providing a staff room that helps your employees connect in an informal, positive way over lunch or coffee. These casual chats can often lead to more open, honest discussions when people are struggling with an issue, including their mental wellbeing.
Other actions include flexible work arrangements, sending flowers when staff are ill or are experiencing grief or loss, conducting regular check-in meetings with staff members, providing them with learning opportunities, having walking meetings, or celebrating an employee’s success via a newsletter, email or a pat on the back at an all-staff morning tea.
If you want to go even further to boost your staff’s mental wellbeing, you can also go directly to the source. Ask your staff what they would like you to do. You may be surprised at what they come up with and how enthusiastic they will be to see these ideas come to fruition.
You can also lead by example and let them know you really want to create an atmosphere where all employees feel valued, and that it’s a safe place to talk about their mental health.
Plan for stress as a team
Demanding workload, changes within the business, lack of control, poor working conditions, or the breakdown of working relationships are some examples of stressors that can have a detrimental effect on employees’ performance.
Prolonged periods of workplace stress can lead to a range of physiological and psychological impacts, including cardiovascular disease, burnout, depression and anxiety.
Checking on the level of stress your team is experiencing could be as simple as asking:
1. On a scale of 1-10, (1 no/low stress and 10 extremely high stress), what is each team member’s preferred or optimum state?
2. On the same scale, what level of stress have they experienced over recent times (for example, the last one - two months)?
3. On the same scale, what level of stress do they foresee over the coming month or two months?
It is important to discuss the causes of the stress, ways in which the employee can look after their wellbeing and how the team can support one another. These conversations, if conducted in an open and generative manner, can lead to practical solutions to address the stressors.
If you are able to gauge the workload the team is under, there will be more understanding and a shared commitment to support each other. Sometimes, people just need to feel heard and understood and that in itself can help people to feel more supported.
Creating a safe and accountable workplace
SuperFriend’s Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey has 38 indicators you can use to easily guide you - see what you are already doing well, and give you some ideas of what you can introduce.
The survey measures the current state of mental health and wellbeing in Australian workplaces against the ideal state of a mentally healthy workplace. All of the indicators are practical and if embedded across a business will make a positive difference to the people and the organisation.
The survey found that the most successful workplaces invest in mental health prevention through mental health and wellbeing training, wellbeing policies, managerial training, and aligning mental health best practice with people management practices.
Australian workers recognise the benefits for employers of investing in mental health and wellbeing. Almost two thirds of Australians believe it would improve productivity, and over half believe it would reduce absenteeism.
Those businesses already implementing best practice for their employees were found to have 80% or more of the desired state indicators in place, which includes actively encouraging employees to identify ways to improve the workplace.
More importantly, these business leaders are setting good examples and creating a culture that enables workers to be happy, healthy and productive. They are leaders who are really listening to the needs of their staff.
Margo Lydon is Chief Executive Officer and Company Secretary of SuperFriend.