How can business leaders inspire others to take care of their mental well-being? By Laurence McLean.
Today’s emphasis on work-life balance means the ‘workaholic’ seniors championed in previous years are no longer viewed as model professionals. It’s difficult to inspire mental well-being throughout an organisation if you don’t take care of your own.
Simple gestures such as leaders taking sick days, including for mental health reasons, have enormous symbolic value. This demonstrates that it’s acceptable for other employees to do the same. If leaders visibly practice self-care and openly discuss its importance, it can create a culture of well-being that permeates the whole business.
Investing in robust mental healthcare initiatives is the easiest way for business leaders to let their staff know they care. A combination of paid mental health days, free counselling, employee assistance programmes, yoga and meditation classes, and flexible working arrangements can add up to a culture that promotes mental well-being.
How can business leaders avoid tokenistic well-being gestures?
If leaders want staff to enjoy the benefits of well-being initiatives, they need to involve them from the beginning. Consulting employees before planning your initiatives will ensure they properly meet their needs.
Crucially, whatever is put in place needs to be sustainable. Don’t just implement a few tokenistic initiatives and then forget about them. Mental well-being needs to be a long-term priority in your organisation, and you should constantly look for ways to improve it.
It’s also important to measure the results. Track the effectiveness of your well-being initiatives so that you can see what is working and what is not. This will help you to make any adjustments and ensure you are getting the most from your efforts.
Be sure to celebrate successes. When you see positive results, share them in company updates. This will help to keep employees motivated and engaged while reinforcing mental health as one of the company’s top priorities.
Is it helpful when business leaders share stories about their own mental health challenges?
It sounds simple, but one of the most effective ways to de-stigmatise mental health issues is to talk about your own. This makes it more likely that people around you will speak up and get the support they need.
Business leaders who are open about their mental health problems help others understand that their own issues aren’t a sign of weakness, but rather a common experience that even the most accomplished people face.
These kinds of stories make it clear that our problems don’t have to define us, and that we can have successful careers while dealing with the tug of war that is mental well-being. This emphasises that there is always “light at the end of the tunnel”, providing people make healthy choices and a long-term commitment to self-care.
How can prioritising mental well-being help attract top talent?
If you look at the employee value proposition of any high-profile business, it will more than likely explain all the ways in which the company takes care of its people. This is because the definition of an appealing job proposition has changed dramatically in recent years.
Prospective employees are pickier than ever when it comes to work-life balance and an employer’s commitment to their well-being. Gone are the days when staff had to join a business before they discovered its culture. Social media and review sites like Glassdoor mean new recruits know exactly what they’re signing up for. This means your willingness to prioritise workplace mental well-being, and advocate for it online, can make or break your ability to attract the top-level talent.
Beyond talent attraction, creating a culture of well-being increases productivity among existing employees, reduces staff turnover, and extends the employee lifecycle. All this means that supporting mental well-being is one of the best long-term investments a business can make.
Laurence McLean, is the Associate Director Operations, Employsure New Zealand.
Employsure in New Zealand and Australia offers employment relations and workplace health & safety advice to more than 31,000 small businesses. See: www.employsure.co.nz