Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was once quoted as saying, “Trust is the essence of leadership.” And it is in building that trust that employees can feel empowered to discuss and address any work stressors or mental health concerns. But first, a company’s leaders must be taught the best way to build that trust among their teams.
Thanks in part to the focus COVID-19 placed on mental health, a number of consultants and experts have emerged who can help lead businesses to create a more open—a more trusting—workplace. According to Mobe, a health outcomes company, there are several questions leaders must first ask themselves as they move toward creating a more supportive work environment.
Leadership Questions Include:
- Is leadership aligned on the importance of providing employees with the time and space to address their mental health?
- How confident are you that employees are aware of the mental health resources they have available to them?
- Do the mental well-being solutions you provide focus on making a human connection? If your company provides mental well-being support, can it be personalized to the needs of the individual?
- Do the solutions you offer evolve and adapt as an individual’s circumstances and health needs change?
- Do you have clear metrics to assess the mental well-being of your employees?
What Industry Says
According to an article by the National Alliance on Mental Illness: “The workplace is the most important environment to discuss mental health and illness, yet it’s the last place we expect to hear about it.” Companies can help their leaders “lead from the top down” when it comes to discussing mental health challenges by encouraging them to initiate conversations with their employees, rather than waiting for the employees to reach out under extreme stress.
An article by Heidi Lynne Kurter, senior contributor for Forbes, suggests company “townhalls” or bringing in speakers to address stress and other mental health topics. Businesses can also keep mental health concerns and resources top of mind through employee communications, such as newsletters.
NAMI also suggests being open with staff by encouraging and allowing leadership to share their own struggles. The organization cites how philanthropist Adam Shaw opened up to his team about this obsessive compulsive disorder, even co-writing a book entitled “Pulling the Trigger: OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression — The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach.” The goal, says Shaw, is to allow employees to see mental health challenges as “normal,” and nothing to hide.
Company leadership that is struggling with how to create a more open and mentally healthy culture should seek out expert help for its executive team. When looking for a consultant that is the right fit for your needs be sure to ask questions, such as:
- Have you worked in our industry before?
- What is your process?
- Are you collaborative or do you have a set program?
- What is the timeframe?
- Is there any follow-up?
- How do you begin the process—do you speak to or survey employees?
And make sure that they will sign a letter of confidentiality and that they can provide references.
Creating a workplace of openness does not happen overnight, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and trust the process.