Why your team’s mental health should be your priority

Employees are your most important asset. So if you’re prioritising KPIs, results and strategies but ignoring their mental health and wellbeing, then your business productivity will suffer as a result. ​

“Your work, your results and the whole spirit of the workplace revolves around being caring and supportive of your staff,” says Psychologist Dr Paul Flanagan in a recent MFAA News article, who is the director of FBG Group, a company that specialises in employee wellbeing and executive mentoring, and a member of the MFAA’s SOLD advisory panel.

“So you really have to look after them as a number one priority.”

And while your business productivity can suffer, Dr Flanagan says that shouldn’t be your primary motivating factor.

“The fundamental thing is the human side of it, really. Just taking an interest in making sure that the people who work with you are well looked after and are feeling good,” says Dr Flanagan.

Looking after your staff

To help keep your staff’s mental health in check, Dr Flanagan says you need to ensure your work culture has a strong sense of team spirit, employees are regularly recognised for their hard work, and that you’re fostering a positive attitude around the workplace.

“Those are the sorts of things that sustain people and insulate teams from mental health and well-being problems,” he says.

Another suggestion is to set yourself regular reminders to check on your staff. This may include a note to yourself ahead of team meetings, or as an email alert during the week.

“A lot of meetings and a lot of managers focus on what needs to be done, what the targets are, and reporting on where everything is up to,” Dr Flanagan says.

“So rather than just talking about what needs to be done, talk to your people about how they’re feeling and how they’re managing with the work.”

Recognising warning signs

Signs that all is not well can include employees taking a day off here and there, as well appearing physically unwell, says Dr Flanagan.

“They’re signs of burnout or people trying to escape the situation,” he says.

“The other signs are ones of disengagement, where people start to withdraw from the team, or withdraw from discussions and don’t contribute much. Another sign is if someone is becoming very reactive, angry or irritable.”

Addressing the situation

Before you approach an employee to check that they’re alright, Dr Flanagan recommends first asking yourself whether you’re the best person to do so.

“The manager has to ask themselves if they have a relationship with this person. And whether it would it be appropriate to pull them aside, have a chat and see how they’re going,” he says.

“It may be that someone else in the team or a supervisor might be better to chat to the person.”

If you do have a good relationship with that staff member, Dr Flanagan says it’s simply a matter of talking to them about what you’ve noticed.

“You can express some concern and see what they say. Let them talk about what they’re feeling. And if necessary, provide some opportunity for them to have a break, to perhaps see a doctor, or ask them what kind of support they might like to receive,” he says.

If you’re in a larger organisation, Dr Flanagan suggests helping them get in touch with human resources.

“A lot of organisations have employee assistance programs and employee well-being programs which could be a resource to refer or connect the person to,” he adds.

What not to do

“Problems with mental health come about when your business is highly task-focused and people are driven to work, work, work, but with no sustainability to it,” explains Dr Flanagan.

While completing set work on time and to a high standard is important, just like your kids, pets or garden, your staff need nourishment too, advises Dr Flanagan.

“And I mean emotionally as well as physically. You really need to look after people so that they have high levels of well-being and feel good about their work and themselves,” he says.

Mental health check tools and advice, as well as information about upcoming events are available here

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