Nine top tips for supporting mental health in the workplace.

It’s been a tough few months for Kiwis – in particular for those in the upper North Island, especially Tāmaki Makaurau. Covid-19 and the lockdowns that come with it are an enormous challenge to our collective mental health – but we’ve continued to get through it by looking out for each other. It’s hugely positive to see our vaccination rates climbing and the return to a more normal life getting closer. But as we get through this last bit, here are some tips for looking after yourself and your colleagues.

Talk about mental wellbeing.

Create a workplace culture where it’s okay to talk about mental health. Simply asking ‘how are you’ can open up a conversation and make a big difference.

Reach out.

Further to our point above, if you sense a team member may be experiencing an issue, gently raise it with them by sincerely asking “how are you”. Or to make them more comfortable and get this vulnerable conversation going, chat about how you’ve found lockdown and these difficult past few months.

And if they don’t want to talk – that’s okay too. Instead, let them know you are always here to chat if they need it.

If they do want to chat, get the conversation going re what support they might require, what the next steps are, and how you can assist from a work/stress management perspective.

Promote Te Whare Tapa Whā.

Learn about the four dimensions of wellbeing and promote them in your team. You could discuss which areas you feel are going well for you right now and which ones you need to focus on to boost your wellbeing. 

Educate.

Provide managers with basic training and information about mental illness and its effects, and how to respond to, support and accommodate people experiencing mental health battles.

Check yourself.

Don’t make assumptions about what it means to have a mental illness. Common assumptions can be “they’re overacting”, “they’re dangerous”, “they should just get over it”, or that mental illness is different from physical illness – it should be treated with the same level of importance.

Check yourself and make sure you treat every case delicately and individually. If someone is brave enough to come forward, take it seriously – and if you need it, seek help on how to best handle the situation so you can best support that person.

Be flexible.

If someone is struggling with mental health, ensuring they have flexible work hours and flexibility around attending appointments will be beneficial. An open dialogue and sincere understanding from managers regarding the personal situation, as well as realistic expectations around work, can be helpful in the road to recovery.

Review your sick leave policy.

It could be a good idea to review and shift your focus of leave to be about wellbeing  – recognising and reinforcing to your team that time off for mental health is equally important.

This makes it more comfortable for employees to be able to have days where they are just not mentally in a space to work (without feeling guilty if they are seen that day taking a walk on the beach!)

Support everyone.

We all have mental health – and everyone experiences ups and downs. Have open discussions with your team on what will help you all to do your best work in these trying times. It could be good to promote and raise awareness of EAP counselling services– everyone could benefit from this service at some point.

Be kind to yourself.

Show yourself some compassion and talk to yourself in the same way you’d talk to a friend. We can be overly tough on ourselves and set high expectations for what we can and should be achieving – but it’s important to moderate your expectations around productivity. Give yourself credit for just getting through each day.

And a disclaimer – we aren’t experts.

These are just some tips to consider when it comes to mental health in the workplace. Aotearoa has a range of fantastic organisations set up to help you navigate this area. We recommend checking these out, and seeking expert guidance when you start your journey toward making your workplace mentally healthy:

Where to get help


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