9 key learnings from 15 years of delivering mental health training workplace – Part 2

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This is a four part series. Did you miss part 1

3. It is up to the workplace to create a culture of wellbeing conversations

I had a participant in my course the other day look at me and say ‘As a manager If I were to try and casually approach one of my team, they would know something was up and would think it was weird. How do you overcome that?’

I smiled and gave him a wink and replied ‘that one is on you my friend’. 

Confused Participant: How is it on me?

Me: If the only time you are checking in with your team is when they are not performing or you have concerns, how do you expect them to react?

Confused participant: Yeah well when people are getting the job done, I leave them to it – why interrupt their work?

Exactly…. He was right – why would we do that? We leave alone the ones who come in, get their work done and go home – they are the quiet achievers.

Except he wasn’t right … The biggest area of influence leaders, managers and supervisors can have is to keep their people well or intervene early. Once someone is unwell the responsibility ultimately is handed over to the professionals, while manager and supervisors can only assist in facilitating that process.

4. Leaders need to be willing to walk the walk

I set a challenge to some of my course participants the other day to use the Employee Assistance Program. In my opinion, if leaders are going to be recommending this service, or expecting their team utilise it, they should at least use it themselves, right? I didn’t think that was an extraordinary request… in fact it makes perfect sense. Particularly they way EAP programs are evolving toward providing a wellbeing service which helps us proactively manage our mental health challenges and to build our mental fitness.

Well….  It was met with mixed reactions. I got a few nods (clearly a lightbulb moment), a few nervous shuffles looking at those around them to see what they thought… and then one or two who stared at me dead pan or whispered to the person next to them ‘yeah right, I don’t need that’.

Whether you are an accredited MHFAider, supervisor, leader, part of the Senior Leadership Team or even the CEO you need to start walking the walk if you expect the rest of the organisation to follow. With more focus on mental fitness, proactive self-care, stress management and overall wellbeing, how do you expect the others around you to step up if you’re not leading by example.

Take leave, have boundaries, detach from work, manage your stress, demonstrate proactive self care and model appropriate work practices like not working at all hours – gone are the day where the person consistently sending emails at 9 pm is seen as a ‘hard worker’…. In fact, they are not proactively looking after themselves at all! This usually results in the person who receives the email to feel pressure to reply…. Yeah, that’s right – Even if you write ‘no need to reply until tomorrow’ 

And golly gosh…if you have an Employee Assistance Program then use it! Whether it is for a relationship problem, mental wellbeing challenges, stress, debriefing from conversations, coaching, finances, nutrition and goal setting – put your money where your mouth is.