Majority of our adult lives is spent working. Over the past years, our working environment has evolved to one whereby everyone is interconnected regardless of location and geography. With the advancement of technology, people become more connected to work than ever through mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
A changing work landscape undoubtedly brings about more opportunities for career development, expansion of social networks and innovation. However, the extent and rate of change coupled with the fact that a changing workplace environment does not take into account people’s mental well-being, can lead to health and mental problems. On top of that, organisational issues such as poor leadership management, long and inflexible working hours and a toxic work environment can contribute to work-related stress and mental health problems amongst employees.
According to studies by the Institute of Mental Health, 72 percent of employers in Singapore say that their organisation have been affected by mental health issues. However, only half of these organisations have a psychosocial support programme in place.
Despite the efforts to build awareness around mental health issues within organisations, there is still a huge stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Organisations can alleviate this stigma by providing strong support and guidance to address mental health issues amongst their employees and this has to start from the top, from the leaders themselves.
Here are three leadership tips to support mental health within the workplace:
Provide a supportive response
For employees to open up about their mental health issues is already a challenge and the most important thing that leaders can do for them is to remain non-judgemental and supportive. Provide reassurance to employees by saying phrases such as, “I understand that it might be difficult for you and thank you for coming forward” or “thank you for confiding in me this information”. This would encourage other employees to open up and allow leaders to be able to take action and provide the necessary support to these employees.
Avoid discussing the issue
Leaders do not need to feel compelled to address and find a cure for mental illnesses. If the organisation has an employee assistance program in place, then leaders should refer the employees to that program or to the HR department. Likewise, leaders should avoid providing advice or share similar stories of other employees.
Reduce the stigma
Leaders are the people who serve as examples to employees within the organisation. As such, leaders can help to build a culture within the organisation whereby it is okay to open up about mental health issues or even any other issues that might affect an employee’s performance at work.
In every organisation, leaders are the ones who have the opportunity to create a culture that takes care of employees’ physical and mental well-being. This forms the key foundation of a productive and effective workforce.
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