C-Suite Advisory

Let’s Talk About Leadership And Mental Health

It used to be a workplace taboo, but mental health is now a hot topic – and for good reason. If you are in a leadership role, failing to acknowledge and support your team’s mental health could be massively detrimental to your business. In fact according to Unum and The Mental Health Foundation’s Added value: mental health as a workplace asset by 2030 the challenges arising from staff mental health concerns could cost the UK economy £32.7 billion.

And with millennials now actively seeking jobs with strong mental health support systems in place, it’s time to start looking at your own structure and thinking about what you can do to create a happy, healthy work environment that will ultimately boost productivity and reduce staff turnover rates. We’ve put together some tips to get you started.

Talk about mental health.

This sounds simple, but it’s surprising how many people think mental health should be kept out of the workplace. As the leader of a team, it’s up to you to set the standard. Encourage your team to talk about mental health.

Elect a mental health advocate, ideally someone who has a lot of visibility within your company who is willing to field any questions employees might have about mental health and about the structures you have in place to help them. They can also be contacted confidentially should a team member feel they need added support during a difficult time. For example, if someone has lost a family member, is struggling with mental illness or is struggling with work.

Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you have a wellbeing strategy in place for staff? If so, have they had input?
  • Are you staff encouraged to and comfortable with talking to one another about things in the workplace they find stressful?
  • Do you make regular time for one on one meetings with your teaching staff, giving them a chance to air grievances and receive praise?
  • Do you provide mindfulness and relaxation session for staff?
  • Do teachers have a quiet area where they can go to decompress?
  • Do you conduct a regular staff wellbeing survey?

Educate yourself and your team.

Many of us feel uncomfortable dealing with mental health in the workplace and it comes down to a lack of education. If you think you or your team could benefit from learning more about mental health in the workplace, why not take a leadership course or a workplace wellbeing course? These courses can help develop a basic mental health strategy that contains reactive measures, ways to spot triggers, teaches you how to promote the systems you have in place and how to conduct tactful conversations about mental health.

Make your mental health strategy flexible.

Mental health is a deeply personal thing. No two people’s mental health is the same. Your mental health strategy should be the base of how you work around people’s mental health, but it needs to be flexible. Tailor solutions to the individual. Have a range of options available to people who are struggling. Maybe flexible working hours or working from home could improve someone’s output. Having people sat at desks unable to work isn’t good for business. Talk to your employee’s and be open to working around their specific needs.

Sign post your mental health strategy.

You might all the best resources and a bulletproof and flexible strategy, but if your staff don’t about the mental health services you offer, then you may as well not have them at all. It could be as simple as sending around reminder emails once a month or putting up a few posters around the office. People struggling with mental health often have issues speaking up and asking for the help they need, it’s up to you to reach out to them.

Create a safe space.

A busy work space can get intense. Sometimes, people just need a few minutes to decompress. Creating a mindfulness space lets people take five minutes to clear their thoughts and return to their desk ready to work more efficiently.

Lead by example.

Support for your mental health strategy must come from the top down. As a person with authority, don’t underestimate your power to elicit positive change. You are a figure head for your company, if you support mental health, it sends out a message that the whole company does – creating a happier, healthier and more efficient place to work.


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Anna Papadopoulos
Editor, writer, teacher, consultant. Advocate for plain language, journalism, free speech, and tolerance. Feminist. Based in Sydney, Australia.
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