Work Better Together Series explores the benefits of team wellbeing in organisations as well as looking into how managers and employees can cultivate a positive work environment. Episode 5 looks at how what managers need to consider when faced with mental health issues and how the understanding of mental health leads to performance and wellbeing.
Story: Twisted Compassion
Jessica had been having mental health issues for the past year. Anna, her manager, had been treating Jessica professionally. First she gave her allowance to work from home and flexibility. When things got worse, they created a plan of recovery and return to normal working operation.
Over the past 2 months things got worse with Jessica. Apart from barely doing any work, over the past week she did not turn up for work at all. When a post on Facebook said managers should be compassionate, Anna blew up with her team mates. She had been trying to be professional and compassionate but she was losing control and allowing Jessica to damage the performance of the team.
Lesson: We All Have Mental Health
According to the WHO mental health is a state of wellbeing to realise your own potential, deal with stresses, work productively and contribute to community. With 1 in 4 being effected by mental health illnesses every year, mental health is a true pandemic. Not only has mental health issues created stress but are now threatening business operations.
For Anna, as it happens to many managers, when dealing with mental health of an employee, they forgot their own and their team's mental health. Being a manager or team leader is always a tricky business, especially when navigating the balance between individual wellbeing, team wellbeing and meeting requirements.
Implications: Performance Depends On Mental Health
We need to make a distinction between mental health problems and mental health. Mental health is the spectrum between suffering to excelling (Ministry For Health, 2019). When people are excelling at the place of work it is because their mental health are at its peak. It is not possible to have a high performing team when there is too much stress, toxic environments and conflict.
Even more than this employee wellbeing has been linked to 20% less staff turnover, 30% more productivity, 30% increased customer loyalty and 20% more profit overall (Krekel, Ward, De Neve, 2019). This implies that mental health impact the whole organisations and has a cumulitive effect that unless tackled can spiral the organisation out of control.
Theory: 5 Steps To Developing Wellbeing
Taking Anna's case, there are many things she could have done differently but also many things that were not her own responsibility. The organisation needs clear policies about how to deal with these situations so that both managers and employees are clear about what is to be received and given. With clear wellbeing policies organisations will make things worse.
There are five levels that an organisation can work towards better mental health at work:
Get Mental Health Crises Training: having basic contacts for getting mental health support and training on mental health first aid can help resolve difficult and dangerous issues.
Set a Wellbeing Policy: the management of the organisation needs to set clear policies about how mental health issues are to be dealt with, what support to give and what is the limit the company can afford.
Provide Support: only when the policy is in place can managers feel freer and clear on what support is needed and when. The organisation might need an ability to assess the issue, seek assistance and provide structures for recovery.
Ensure Regular Contact With Employees: unless the management and the employees are in constant communication, understanding and respect, then there will be mistrust, fear and conflict.
Develop A Culture Of Wellbeing: by understanding the link between wellbeing and profits, the organisation can make wellbeing a priority. Not only may they find profits but they might find that the organisation develops a sense of greater purpose and compassion to the people working at the office and the rest of the world.
Action: Want To Improve Mental Health At Work?
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Ministry For Health (2019). A Mental Health Strategy For Malta 2020-2030
Krekel, C, G Ward and J-E De Neve (2019), “Employee wellbeing, productivity and firm performance”, CEP Discussion Paper 1605.