Why all leaders need mental health and wellness training

'We need to transform the way we educate leaders so that they are inspired to lead with empathy, and set the right examples'

Why all leaders need mental health and wellness training

Sponsorship note: This article was produced in partnership with Unmind.

Ksenia Stepanova of HRD Australia caught up with Daisy Abbott of Unmind to discuss how to promote employee wellness. 

While leaders have traditionally been focused on results and performance, today’s environment requires a new kind of skill from every manager – empathy, and an understanding of mental health and wellbeing.

COVID-19 has forced workplaces to have some serious conversations with employees about mental wellbeing. Many companies have implemented new benefits to promote wellness, and employees are being encouraged to speak up and seek support if they are struggling. However, there is still an ongoing gap in mental health training, particularly where it is needed most – in leadership.

One organisation looking to fill this gap is Unmind, a workplace mental health platform which has been partnering with companies for almost 5 years. It is now set to release a new training programme designed for people in leadership, and head of client solutions Daisy Abbott says that often, leaders have been expected to simply “have the natural skills” to navigate the topic of mental health.

“We believe our mental health is one of the most incredible things about being a human, allowing us to think, to feel and to respond to emotions,” Abbott said.

“It is imperative that every single leader understands mental health, wellbeing and how to be proactive to truly drive happier, healthier and more productive teams. Leaders cannot be expected to naturally have the skills and empathy to create psychologically safe spaces, nor remember all of their training throughout their career.”

“By equipping leaders with on-demand learning resources, they can be best prepared to always lead with empathy,” she explained.

“Our approach to educating leaders is built from extensive research with line managers, leaders and their employers - all driven by our in-house science and research team.”

Abbott noted that companies often run into various issues with training programmes, including difficulty in scaling, and a lack of relevance to the modern workplace and the challenges of today.

Unmind’s training programme also aims to dig deeper and enact cultural change, as well as educating and informing – something Abbott said is vital to creating ‘psychological safety’ in the workplace.

“We believe leadership training should be continuously evolving, given the topic of mental health in the workplace never stands still,” Abbott said.

“We have always said that prevention is better than cure, and we have been fortunate to partner with some incredible organisations who agree with that notion, and have joined us on our mission. But moving from a reactive approach to a proactive one doesn't happen overnight and is something that requires a cultural change.”

“When we think about cultural change, we believe it’s critical to address the organisation as a whole,” she explained.

“From your CEO, all the way down to the very latest new joiner in the business. Each layer of an organisation contributes to cultural change, and that’s why our solutions are aimed at educating, equipping and providing proactive support to everyone. Our new asset will talk you through the need to shift from the tradition of simply focussing on individual wellbeing, to addressing the entire organisation.”

With more organisations starting up discussions around mental health, Abbott said that the demand for specialised training has also increased – a positive trend, as it shows that companies are recognising the need to upskill their leaders in this area.

She noted that the quality of training is also increasing, and Unmind aims to lead the way in creating engaging, useful programmes that leaders can use in their day to day interactions with employees.

“Mental health and wellbeing training in the past was only ever available for the few, and not the many,” Abbott said.

“Often leaders were cherry picked to go through 2 day training, or at best given unengaging e-learning to complete. We need to transform the way we educate leaders so that they are inspired to lead with empathy, and set the right examples.”

“The demand for training has risen significantly, and it is part of almost every call we have with clients today,” she concluded.

“It is exciting to see how many organisations are recognising the need for authentic, credible training that can be digested in a bitesize way, and this is going to be a key theme for 2022.”

To find out more about Unmind visit Unmind.com or get in touch with the team via [email protected].

Daisy Abbott is a Head of Client Solutions at Unmind. She is a psychology professional with a passion for improving the mental health of employees across the globe. Before joining Unmind Daisy worked for the NHS, PWC, and the mental health charity Mind, where she led a team that worked on the “Heads Together Campaign” in conjunction with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

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