Mental wellbeing in the workplace has been a hot topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, as changes in the way we work raise new questions about mental health.
Today being World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK Day, we asked managers how they’re having important, but sometimes tough, conversations with staff in the workplace.
Here’s the advice they had to share.
Employment Hero: Tackle the hard questions
Employment Hero’s chief people officer Alex Hattingh is responsible for facing “the hard questions” from team members that contribute to their mental wellbeing.
In essence, she says, a sense of certainty and stability plays a big role in the mental wellbeing of staff, so there can be no separating anxiety about workplace conditions from mental health.
“We’re using a new tool in our company-wide Zoom calls that allow people to submit questions to the leadership team, anonymously or not, in an open forum,” Hattingh tells SmartCompany.
It gives people the opportunity to respectfully ask any questions that might be weighing heavily on their mind and actually get answers in real-time.”
Management don’t have to be mental health experts either, but bosses do need to offer employees the support structures and tools they need to be mentally healthy.
“It can be helpful to organise a ‘lunch and learn’ workshop with a mental health expert, to equip yourself and your team with some expert advice and mental health strategies.”
BMF: Don’t Zoom through conference calls
With so many people working remotely during COVID-19, it can be all too easy to let the ol’ fashioned watercooler chat fall away from the workplace.
That’s not necessarily a good thing. The humble chin-wag can be an important nexus of human connection in an otherwise isolated existence amid coronavirus lockdowns, as BMF’s Emily Field explains.
“Those tiny chinwags at the kettle and idle chit-chats at the printer are how we stay connected. They’re when we say what we did on the weekend, what happened, what’s going on and how we’re doing,” Field says.
“If you’re working remotely, join Zoom chats early or linger on them a little too long, because those who do, know it’s where the side chats happen. The Zoom grid can be the new watercooler if we let it.”
Hotwire: Don’t let the indoors rule over your team
With everyone working at home, it can be easy to fall into a sedentary, indoors lifestyle.
That has mental health implications and employers have a responsibility to give their workers opportunities to maintain balance, Hotwire Australia’s strategy director Drew Usher says.
“People are also becoming ‘Zoom reliant’. Speaking from personal experience, video meetings in my diary have increased ten-fold this year and it’s now coming at a cost,” Usher says.
“I’m not stepping away from my laptop at all during the day which can’t be good for my mental and physical health.”
So why not encourage staff to take their meetings outdoors? Usher calls them “move meetings”.
“We’re now sending meeting invites that stipulate all participants get moving, grab a coffee or walk around the block — anything that gets us away from our desks. By introducing this simple change to one or two key meetings a day, we can improve both the physical and mental health of our teams and can measure the impact too.”
If you or someone you know need to talk to someone, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.
You can reach Beyond Blue’s COVID-19 support line on 1800 512 348, or find mental health resources for small business owners here.
You can help us (and help yourself)
Now, there’s a way you can help us keep doing this: by becoming a SmartCompany supporter.