The Importance of Managers in Supporting Employee Mental Health
The Importance of Managers in Supporting Employee Mental Health

The Importance of Managers in Supporting Employee Mental Health

Leadership Development, Employee Well-being   — 3 MIN


One business rule-of-thumb is that happy, healthy employees are engaged, productive employees. Managers take notice when studies like the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 reveal nearly half Gen Z and Millennial respondents (48 and 44 percent, respectively) report they feel stress, anxiety or despair “all or most of the time.”

In the best of circumstances, think pre-COVID, many employees still struggle with daily stress-inducers such as fatigue, overwork, underpay, rapid pace, and high demand, to name but a few. Now, add a global pandemic, extreme socio-economic issues, and the side-effects of stay-at-home work and school, and those stress-inducers kick into full gear, even for people not ordinarily prone to mental health-related concerns.

Leading experience data (known as X-Data) company, Qualtrics reports 42 percent of those answering their survey say they’ve experienced a decline in their mental wellbeing since the COVID outbreak.

“Considering that stress has a direct, negative impact on work productivity, employers need to understand and embrace their role in helping alleviate stress and reducing the drivers of poor mental health at work.”

–Michele Parmelee, Chief People and Purpose Officer, Deloitte Global

Why is employee mental wellbeing important?

Employees suffering from a lack of wellbeing in any form–physical or mental health, financial issues, the care of ill elders or children, etc.–work from a place of distraction at the very least. At the most, they aren’t working at all. Sick-leave, PTO, and FMLA programs are designed to promote employee health. However, when taken suddenly, as is the case much of this past year, it can place an undue burden on the organization.

Furthermore, each employee represents a single part of your more extensive work or business family. When one family member isn’t doing well, other family members become concerned. One employee out for unexpected health-related issues affects the colleagues working with that employee daily. The aggregate of those situations has farther-reaching implications than most managers initially understand.

Manager support is essential

The wellbeing of a manager and their family is a top priority. If managers aren’t taking good care of themselves, they won’t care for those around them very well. A close second priority is the health of their employees. A manager’s role allows them to assess the overall sense of things–the resources available to employees, corporate alignment to state or federal services, and adjustments to work schedules.

Using that insight gives them a chance to be more intentional about being involved in the health and wellbeing of those in their charge. This direct link puts the leader in the perfect position to gauge how well those reporting to them are doing. By staying connected, bosses can lead and empower ongoing conversations around self-care.

For example, Nic Marks, founder of Friday Pulse, recommends that organizations reach out to each employee at least once per week. By doing so, senior management teams can offer support where it is needed more rapidly. This also gives employees a fundamental sense that their leaders genuinely care about their wellbeing and not just their work performance.

4 ways leaders promote employee wellness

Find positive solutions

Try not to add to existing tension with unreasonable work demands. Your team will work better and remain productive when you make decisions that protect and support their wellbeing. For example, keep meetings in regular work hours, don’t email on weekends or at night, and help them use PTO or comp time.

Offer support and resources

Regularly communicate available support and resources. Permit employees to take advantage of what is available. Remember, for some, it may not be enough to say these resources are here, so make sure employees understand that it is okay and necessary to care for their mental health.

Develop learning opportunities

Employee health issues have long been a challenging topic in the workplace. However, it is becoming readily more apparent these topics are essential to employees, their managers, and the companies for which they work. Begin regularly incorporating learning around wellbeing, self-care, and mental health into your team’s learning and development programs. This will keep awareness levels high and promote the adoption of self-care habits.

Take a holistic approach

It is the whole-person mentality that lends itself to tremendous success. The employee’s health and wellbeing are equally important in the home as in the office. While leaders are taking every step to improve the “work” side of the work-life balance scale, “life” still happens. Managers should create an emotionally safe space that is supportive and free from judgment for employees to discuss personal matters.

The key to this approach is trust. 57 percent of employees leave jobs due to bad relationships with their boss. Building and keeping employees’ trust will contribute to open discussion for issues in and outside the office.

Happy, healthy employees are more engaged and productive. The benefits of helping your employees increase awareness of their wellbeing, developing healthier habits and routines, and creating an environment of care, acceptance, and support resources within the organization lends itself to an improved workforce.