Who is responsible for mental health? Challenges of managing today’s workforce

The issue of mental health is one that comes up multiple times a day.

Over the last few years, I have noticed the increase in the number of my clients who have employees experiencing mental health issues.

I don’t do work with corporates or resource companies with FIFO – an industry where perhaps they have been dealing with these challenges for longer than my average client.

We are talking about a wide range of professional industries that are having to review their whole approach to managing the well-being and mental health of their team.

While the employer is usually the first stop for “workplace stress” issues, in my experience, many of the challenges faced by their team members have their roots outside of work. Mental health can often be a build up from a number of factors, work being one of them, but it is the workplace where the action will often have to occur.

There are multiple reasons why we may debate as to the reasons that mental health is on the climb – I am not wanting to explore that but rather look at the role of business owners and managers in this.

After all, we are key players in each of our communities.

What my clients have found is that they have been responsible for cost of treatment with team members going on stress leave and requiring counselling services. In many cases, the employee will go to a counsellor for work-related stress and find out that the underlying causes run far deeper – and this is a good thing, as too many people fail to seek help when they need it most.

Did you know that free counselling services are available through seeing your GP for a referral?

The cost to everyone is too high – not only in leave and productivity, but most importantly, emotionally for everyone in the team.

So what can we do about it?
I think the first step is acknowledging that mental health issues are currently a normal part of life and that most of us could use some help at different times of our lives to navigate the tricky bits.

There is a stigma that needs to be removed.

The second step is to accept that “prevention is better than cure”.

Let us stop and take notice of our team a lot more. Get to know them, their families and areas that could be making an impact. This is good practice that any business should have as part of caring and knowing your team, but there is added importance when you also want to ensure that your team are truly OK.

Increasing the awareness of how important mental health is in our lives and that “toughing it out” isn’t always the best option. Letting your team know that help is available and what your policy is regarding this, is also important.

I’m not a psychologist but I would suggest that when there are serious issues in the lives of our team members like: deaths and illnesses of family, marital issues, divorce and challenges with their children (especially teens), that we should be proactive and ask if they need help and point them in the right direction. Give them time off without question. If you show your support along the way with little things like giving time off freely without it being tallied and watched the message will be clear to your staff about how important this is to you and the values you want to demonstrate.

Of course, these same principles apply to you as a leader. What example are you setting in managing your stress, looking after your health, not working ridiculous hours, having regular holidays? Your example in this space speaks volumes and you have to remember that everyone has different tolerances and life experiences that can build to an outcome. But you are responsible for setting the tone for the office with how you want your employees to look after themselves – like it or not, you are the example.

This is a real issue for all of us to manage and support so I welcome your input below.

I think the answer to my question I first posed in the title is – everyone. But taking that time and effort with your team, as well as being aware of your example will only end up in good outcomes for all regardless of whether there are any mental health issues to deal with or not. These steps are ones you should be doing in any case.

If you are experiencing more stress than you feel comfortable with then please get help and ask for support – https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

Russell Cummings
24 May 2018

Search this website