While the events of COVID-19 have seen us check in on our colleagues, friends and family more regularly and take stock of our own stress levels, discussion and action around mental wellbeing in the workplace remains a core opportunity for SMEs.
Insights from MYOB’s 2021 Business Monitor revealed that while 62% of small business owners agree running their business has had a direct impact on feelings of anxiety or depression this year, only 12% of Australian SMEs surveyed provide access to mental health support for staff.
As the saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ — and the benefits of talking to someone about how you’ve been feeling are significant. From reducing stress, to strengthening the immune system, to reducing emotional distress.
In a virtual world, it is just as important — perhaps even more so — for managers to ensure they make the time to create the right environment for meaningful conversations with their team members about how they are going in their personal and professional life.
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Creating safe spaces for conversations around mental health and wellbeing is a positive step to take and there’s an opportunity for small businesses to kickstart discussions that boost connection and wellbeing for themselves and their team.
For those not sure where to start with their colleagues or employees, here are a few tips.
Starting the conversation
To establish a trusting environment for open conversations in the workplace, the questions you ask are key.
A few suggestions include:
- I’ve noticed that you haven’t seemed yourself lately, how are you feeling?
- I’ve been thinking of you, how have you been coping with the current situation?
- I don’t feel like we have connected as much lately — fill me in on what’s going on in your world…
- Any big changes for you recently? How are they impacting you?
Engaging with meaning
Once you’ve got a meeting set up and you’re getting underway, also consider the following:
- Don’t leave your more general or personal check-in questions until the last five minutes of your catch up; make this topic feel as important as the work check-ins.
- Be open, share how you are feeling, and be willing to show some vulnerability to others so they feel more comfortable sharing.
- Take notice of specific behaviours or comments that you have seen or heard from team members that seem out of character. Flag that it’s something you happened to observe earlier and ask them specifically about what is driving this change.
- Don’t rush the conversation or likewise feel the need to fill the silence. Sometimes people need the time to find their words to explain their emotions so be open to giving them time to do so.
- Make sure your camera and screens are set up so the person on the other end of the video call feels as though you are really are looking at them (and stop looking at yourself on the screen!). Face-to-face is much more impactful than a voice call, particularly in scenarios where a range of emotions are involved.
- If the team member you are speaking with is not comfortable sharing anything in relation to what you’re asking them, ask if another time would be better, or if there is someone else you can arrange to connect in with them if they acknowledge they would prefer to have a conversation with a different representative in the business or elsewhere.
- If they share challenges — whether it’s at home or at work — don’t try to fix their problems. Listen, follow up and check in, and if required have some useful contact numbers handy to refer them on to, or a place for them to proactively manage mental wellbeing, such as the Smiling Mind app.
The wellbeing of your team is high up on the priorities list and good communication can act as a great foundation when it comes to boosting this — plus, you might learn something new about some of your colleagues.
A little chat really can go a long way, so reach out, check in, and get talking. Both you and your team members will feel better for it.
Australia’s Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson, Smiling Mind’s CEO Addie Wootten, MYOB’s chief employee experience officer Helen Lea and Paris Thomson, founder and creative director of SIRAP recently came together in conversation on this important subject in the webcast Making mental health your business: Coping skills for resilient SMEs.
Resources available to explore:
- ASBFEO My Business Health
- Beyond Blue NewAccess for Small Business Owners
- Smiling Mind x MYOB Small Business Program
This article is brought to you by the MYOB and Smiling Mind Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, it’s here to help business owners thrive. So, let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the ‘At Work’ section in the Smiling Mind app today.