Part II: “We’re In This Together: Mental Health In The Workplace”
Carolyn Maue and Alyson Lyon, The Maue Center
Alyson Lyon, my Maue Center colleague and President of Higher View Coaching, and I recently presented a webinar to FPRA Volusia/Flagler Chapter on “Leading Through Covid-19” as part of their wonderful and informative series. This is Part II of our exploration of the current state of mental health in the workplace and the important steps that organizations and teams can take Part I can be found here: https://mauecenter.com/blog/
Alyson: Carolyn, science has shown us that when people feel like they belong to something, like an organization or a team, they have a different experience, whether it’s related to the pandemic or other causes of stress. What role can leaders and their teams play in helping people feel a sense of belonging?
Carolyn: Teams are the center of where things happen, the engine that drives work getting done and people collaborating to make that happen. Leaders can inspire their teams to raise the bar and say, “Okay, we will do everything we can to promote health and wellness together as a team.” There’s a tremendous amount of power in that. We know that when team members are at their best and functioning well, productivity is higher, there’s a greater economic contribution, and absenteeism decreases. Leaders can be deliberate about building team cohesion by acknowledging the team’s accomplishments, encouraging team members to recognize and use strengths in one another, and problem-solving in focused ways that help people’s esteem go up. Making sure long and short-term goals are clear and understood and reinforcing them through effective team meetings, like team huddles and strategic discussions, are really important. Providing cross-training to team members is also energizing and can help them feel connected to larger goals while learning and increasing their skills.
One of the participants in our webinar conveyed the importance of being supported by team members:
“it’s been easier for some people to keep going to the office and keep that sense of normalcy. But ever since the pandemic hit, I have worked totally at home with a toddler, so I don’t get a break. I don’t get a coffee break, I don’t get a lunch break, I don’t get just a few minutes to chat with a co-worker about something because I’m working, I have a child, and I’m doing both at the same time. When my team members reach out to me and make me feel included it means so much.”
Alyson: It is important to intentionally build resilience, whether you are helping someone else do that or working on it yourself. When we can bounce back and recover from something like this pandemic and move forward, we take strength with us to develop coping skills for use during future times of stress and crisis. Carolyn, what did you find in your research of best practices of teams during the pandemic?
Carolyn: We discovered that teams play a major role in keeping mental health and wellness at the forefront by: 1) providing opportunities for ongoing discussions for ways to stay healthy, like exercise routine apps, healthy recipe exchanges, and suggestions for meditation practices, 2) integrating humor into the work-week, with times for informal gatherings that include stories and jokes, 3) encouraging acts of kindness, like giving compliments and sending thank you notes, 4) virtual socializing and opt-in meetings, where team members can spend time together informally over lunch, happy hour or other designated times during the week, and 5) celebrating special events, like birthdays or special holidays. Celebration is so important!
Alyson: Carolyn, we know that organizations should build a resilient workplace culture to meet the evolving challenges we face in the future. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, what strategies can organizations use to support people with mental health challenges and diminished well-being?
Carolyn: Organizations can proactively provide ongoing resilience programs and cultivate well-being through wellness strategies. The impact can be meaningful and significant when organizations design a multi-faceted approach addressing mental health, physical health, and support to sustain a steady state of readiness. Together, resilience and well-being provide a buffer that influences positive change through proactive practices, skills, and behaviors.
Wellness strategies promote a better work-life balance. They include mental, social, emotional, and physical support, assuring that employee health benefits provide mental health services and one-on-one individualized support to increase the likelihood of lasting change. Coaching, mentoring, and Employee Assistance Programs all provide support and development. The Great Places to Work website (https://www.greatplacetowork.com/) has some great ideas, like Employee Resource Groups, which foster cooperation and shared interest.
Leaders can help build resilience in teams and individuals by conveying that they value one another’s contributions and care about one another’s well-being.
Here’s a wonderful story from a webinar participant:
I had a co-worker when I was working at a theme park, and I thought she was really great. I think about the way she interacted with me personally. Often, she would ask me, “How are you? ” I was the manager on the team, so I would immediately say, “No, how are you.? “And she would stop and say, “I want to know how you really are. Are you okay? I really want to know how you are doing.” I want to emulate that moving forward.
Finally, leaders have the opportunity to role model self-care and resilience for others by adopting these practices for themselves. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great time to pay attention to this issue and implement some new strategies! For more information: www.mauecenter.com.