Often misunderstood, mental health is something we all have and is not, in fact, as it’s presumed to be, a negative state of being. It influences how we approach challenges, build relationships, and progress in our careers. However, one area where mental health is often overlooked is in the workplace.
In this blog, we delve into the impact that workplace wellbeing can have on our businesses, the responsibilities that surround it, and uncover how managers in particular, can play a pivotal role in fostering a supportive environment.
But first, it’s time to explore the critical question: who, in fact is responsible for workplace wellbeing?
Who is responsible for workplace wellbeing?
In the UK, employers have a legal duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees under the Equality act of 2010. But it’s not just on the shoulders of employers, employees also have a responsibility to look after their own mental health and seek out support when necessary.
Managers, however, play a crucial role in workplace wellbeing — often being the first point of contact for employees who are experiencing stress or mental health issues, and they can set the tone and culture of the team.
Why workplace wellbeing should be a business imperative:
In a time where employees are taking more sick days in over a decade due to stress-related issues, it’s more important than ever that organisations focus on workplace wellbeing. It’s not just a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative.
Workplace wellbeing can improve motivation, productivity, performance, engagement, and satisfaction for employees. Studies have shown that employees who are thriving in their wellbeing are 81% less likely to seek a new job if the job market improves, compared to those who are struggling or suffering. Furthermore, employees who feel happy at work are 12% more productive than those who do not.
The increased pressure on managers to support workplace wellbeing
Managers have faced increased pressure and responsibility to support their staff since the COVID-19 pandemic and the global shift to remote work. This added responsibility has led to many managers feeling the squeeze. They now have to manage remote or hybrid teams, and maintain productivity and performance, whilst also monitoring staff safety and wellbeing.
Managers must be able to communicate effectively and frequently with employees, spot signs of poor mental health, provide support and guidance, and develop tactics to prevent or reduce work-related stress, all whilst dealing with their own stress and emotions. Managers also must balance the needs and expectations of their employees, their organisation, and themselves.
Employee expectations of workplace wellbeing
According to APA’s 2022 Work and Well-Being Survey, employee expectations related to mental health support are changing. The majority (71%) of workers now believe that their employers are more concerned about employees’ mental health than in the past, and they consider mental health support when they look for future work (80%).
However, a significant gap exists between what employees need and what employers provide when it comes to mental health support. Just over half (51%) of workers said that they feel supported by their employer when it comes to managing stress at work, and only 44% feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work.
Managers can play a key role in bridging this gap by creating a psychologically safe and healthy environment for their workers.
How can managers support workplace wellbeing?
A manager’s core job is to ensure teams are productive, but that only happens when people feel safe and get the necessary support they need. Here are some ways managers can promote and support workplace wellbeing for their staff, and themselves:
- Effective communication: Managers should get to know each of their team members and adapt their communication style accordingly.
- Self-awareness: Managers should be mindful of how they interact with their staff and ensure that they don’t make assumptions about each individual’s needs without enquiring first.
- Make adjustments: Where possible managers should make accommodations for their staff’s mental health needs, whether that be extending an upcoming deadline or providing a flexible working arrangement.
- Signpost to support: Managers should be aware of the various support services available to their staff and refer to them when appropriate.
- Model healthy behaviours: Managers should lead by example, demonstrating l healthy routines such as taking regular breaks, using their annual leave and setting boundaries around working hours.
- Create a psychologically safe environment: Establish a workplace where open dialogue is the norm and employees know that their thoughts and ideas will be heard and appreciated.
In the ever-evolving landscape of work, one thing remains clear: workplace wellbeing is a collective commitment. Employers, employees, and managers all have a role in creating an environment where mental health thrives.
Managers, in particular, wield an incredible influence, and by embracing the strategies outlined above, they can take the lead in cultivating a workplace where trust, respect, and care for employees are the cornerstones. Once mental wellbeing is made a priority by all, your team and organisation as a whole will flourish, productivity will increase and attrition rates will reduce. It’s not just good for people, its good for business.