Twelve-billion working days. That’s the estimated hours of productivity lost due to mental health issues rooted in depression and anxiety per year globally. Destigmatizing mental health at work isn’t just about building rapport and workplace culture. Learning to support your teammates' mental health offers leadership a more holistic understanding of the team, how to best manage and motivate, as well as creates touchpoints of genuine support. By fostering spaces for team members to be curious and open with each other, we increase our opportunities to treat mental health proactively, connecting peers to services, providing accommodations and reducing fear and stigma.
A team member's agility, creativity and curiosity are often heavily correlated to their mental wellness. It’s our job as leaders to create an inclusive, understanding workplace to best support our teams. Here are four steps to get started.
Active Vulnerability From Leadership
Though disclosing anything about your personal life is always voluntary, establishing open communication and real-life check-ins on your 1:1s with direct reports is key. Creating this safe space and dialogue allows them to discuss challenges they may be facing and gives you insight into their overall well-being beyond tactical work. The importance of confidentiality and trust within these managerial relationships is crucial to maintaining long-term connections grounded in respect, boundaries, empathy and support.
Availability of Mental Health Days
Mental health days are sick days, and where possible, adopt a no-questions-asked policy. Communicating the importance of taking a last-minute day off or even a scheduled mental health day will alleviate fear of judgment or burden. All team members should be encouraged to jump in and be flexible when a colleague is out or needs to take an unplanned day off. This approach will increase confidence in your company’s focus on team member well-being.
Just like we have first aid kits in the office, teammates should have access to mental health first aid, as well. Empower your team to learn how to recognize distress in others and how to step in and provide initial support just like you would for a physical injury. This helps your team members confront issues sooner rather than creating a culture of suppression, which may ultimately affect their relationship with their peers or clients. It also destigmatizes and validates mental health as a health issue, where team members know that benefits are provided and professional support is available.
Creating an inclusive workplace isn't just about being morally right; it's also a smart move. These four steps can set the stage for nurturing and keeping teams happier and more closely bonded, allowing them to develop both personally and professionally. Together as a team, we can dismantle the barriers that hinder us from discussing stress, depression and mental health, building a more compassionate and proactive workplace.