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Your employees should never feel pressured to open up about any struggles that they may be having. However, it is still important to create a workplace environment that makes people feel safe and supported. Simply saying that you have an open-door policy is not enough. It might sound cliche but you know what they say, ‘actions speak louder than words.’
Too often workplaces treat mental health as a threat even if it is not intentional. CEOs and managers worry that beginning an open conversation will put a strain on either finance or productivity. That is why people are usually pushed to find definite solutions that do not exist. This causes employees to feel like they are not being truly heard and treated as a problem their higher-ups wish to solve quickly. Sometimes there is no obvious solution. Instead, employees should be empowered to work through their own struggles while HR and management act as support for whatever the employee believes they need.
It is important to trust that your employees know more about their mental and physical health than you do. Taking the time to listen can prove to be more helpful than any advice you could give. Whether you fully understand what an employee is going through is irrelevant in that moment. Keep an open mind when someone is suggesting what could be done or what they need to help them. There will not always be a finite reason the person is struggling and sometimes we just have the accept that reality without judgement.
Mental health has never been simple and it’s great to see more workplaces realising this. However, there is still a severe lack of understanding of how different mental health struggles can manifest in a person. Outwardly, they could seem no different but inside they could be fighting a battle that makes the simplest of tasks feel impossible. Taking the time to really look into how people could be struggling and educating yourself will help you to take the right steps into providing the support your employees need.
Sometimes employees may not feel comfortable talking to senior members of staff even if that is policy. It is no reflection on that particular member of staff but the employee will most likely be closer and more comfortable with someone in their immediate team. Therefore it is important that this supportive culture is passed down throughout all team leaders and supervisors. Truthfully, it can be impossible for higher-ups to be available at the drop of a hat so delegating this responsibility to heads of teams will make sure everyone has access to support.
Small changes like this are not the kind that is likely to disrupt the work environment. They are simply a mindset that should be put in place and be a part of every company’s culture. This type of mindset will greatly relieve stress for people knowing that they have someone trusted they can speak to who will take the time to listen and support them in any way they need.
Of course, I am by no means a mental health expert. My knowledge does not come from expertise but from experience. In previous jobs, I have experienced both sides of support when it comes to my mental and physical health. So, as an employee, I know what could have been done better to support me and my fellow co-workers.