Most organisations recognise that there is a profound connection between an individual’s work life and their mental health. Happy and healthy employees are the backbone of a great organisation, since how employees feel directly impacts their contribution in the workplace. What’s important for employers to remember is that everybody struggles, and it’s not uncommon for challenges like mental health issues to spill over into the workplace.

“It is vital that employers realise that they can play a crucial role in the wellness of their workforce, and prioritise this in their employee engagement strategies,” says ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar. Here’s how organisations can take action and be supportive.

Organisations that are able to support their employees can help foster a more productive environment and a more positive outlook for their employees. Tomas Chamorro Premuzic, ManpowerGroup Chief Talent Scientist, provides steps employers can take to create a culture that supports mental health.

Foster meaningful work 

Employees – especially Millennials – desire to do meaningful work that matches their values, interests, lifestyle and development. When that is lacking, it can lead to disengagement, burnout and depression. “One of the best ways to create a culture that supports mental health is to ensure people experience their jobs in a meaningful and purposeful way,” Premuzic says. “This can be achieved by giving employees autonomy and resources.”

Van den Barselaar notes that this can also be created through immersing employees fully in the company culture. “When employees feel they are part of a business whose values align to those of their own, they are more likely to be engaged and find their roles meaningful,” she says.

Have career conversations 

The impact of work extends to all areas of your employee’s lives. Perhaps the best way to create a culture that supports mental health is to ask employees what they need in order to feel supported and make them aware of additional resources that are available, such as employee assistance programs.

Schedule regular career conversations, maintain an open dialogue and truly listen. “It’s also important that managers do not check out from their employees,” Premuzic says. “People need guidance and direction from a leader so the worst thing you can do is disappear or be unapproachable.”

Cultivate connections among colleagues 

Cultivating friendships inside your workplace helps workplace mental health as well as your employees’ careers. We spend much of our time at work, so it makes sense that socialising with colleagues can help make work more enjoyable. Encourage connecting beyond the usual project meetings and emails by creating social groups or outings beyond the confines of work. Encourage employees to take lunches or walks with each other during the workday.

“Including team building exercises into employee relations strategies not only assists with fostering possible friendships between employees, but assists in creating the necessary trust for working together optimally,” explains van den Barselaar. “While not every employee is likely to get along, fostering relationships built on open communication and trust is imperative for success in a team.”

In conclusion, van den Barselaar highlights that this should not only be a concern during Mental Health Awareness Month, but regularly. “Employee mental health should be a priority for all organisations,” she says.

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