As we kick off the year with a national UK lockdown, likely to be extended beyond even the most pessimistic predictions, there are calls for workplaces to do more to protect employee mental health.
The pressures of increased working safety protocols for key workers, home working, homeschooling, coupled with isolation from friends, family and colleagues, are increasingly taking their toll. The pace many of us adopted back in Spring 2020 to embrace the new challenges a pandemic presented, is not sustainable. The uncertainty of planning for an unknown future can be exhausting.
One upside is that there has been a noticeable and step-change in our acceptance that we all have mental health. The movement of mental health along a continuum is something that we can talk about openly, in most situations, without fear of stigma.
Awareness has grown, and leaders and managers are reaching out proactively to understand what the workplace can do; what new training, webinars, websites, Apps, wearable technology or other benefits can help employees stay engaged and productive. Whilst these initiatives may support a comprehensive mental health programme, for an individual employee, the most critical benefit that any workplace can offer is to take the time to ask someone how they are. Then have the kindness to listen, without prejudice or judgement, without trying to fix or provide a solution.
Having a conversation doesn’t need a toolkit, a process or an App; but it does require a colleague who cares enough to notice that someone might need to talk and then feels confident enough to ask a question that enables them to talk. The conversation doesn’t cost anything, but we know that the skill of listening is generally in today’s workplace, one we are not very good at. Maggi Rose, Head of Evolution at Mental Health at Work, gives us a very useful steer, “Asking people to listen more, sounds simple, but we know it’s not easy and if you hear yourself talking too much, then quite probably, you are not listening”.
How can workplaces equip their staff to change these habits?
At Mental Health at Work, we’ve been running customised workshops for organisations across all industry sectors for the last five years, focusing on understanding mental health and learning the skills of listening and questioning and managing it. Our workshops facilitate using a range of learning methodologies to bring competence and confidence that the individual can become the only toolkit needed to have these vital conversations, safely, whilst removing the fear of saying the wrong thing.
In these virtual workshops, we encourage participants to consider what they might notice within their teams, within their specific roles and environment, including how this changes when working virtually or flexibly to balance other home demands. This might include creating opportunities to focus on how people are, including specific check-ins around mental health or recurring agenda items on 1:1’s.
We blend knowledge about mental health, theory and practical learning to embed skills for life around listening, which will extend across the workplace and beyond. Each workshop is tailored to your organisation and audience, reflecting the working environment and challenges, whilst dovetailing with other wellbeing or mental health initiatives, including signposting, support such as Employee Assistance Programmes and policy and procedure.
It is a small investment in your people, which only has an upside, but might be the most essential act of kindness for your staff in 2021
If you have a question about our workshops or would like to find out more about how we can develop a workshop for your organisations, then contact us here: https://www.mhaw.uk.com/contact-us/