Leading for workplace mental health and wellbeing

By Jonathan Norton

Ensuring your business is a leader in mental health and wellbeing is about more than providing yoga classes and fruit bowls for your people. It’s about how the fundamentals of the workplace are designed and configured. It’s about culture, and about how things like communication occur. These all relate to people’s wellbeing at work.

It’s important to make sure your organisation is operating across the whole mental health continuum. This is the idea that mental health and wellbeing exists on a spectrum, with thriving and high levels of wellbeing on one end, right down to the other end where there may be people languishing.

As a result, leaders need to operate across the spectrum as well:

  • They need to promote and build wellbeing;
  • They need to protect their staff against risks;
  • And they need to respond and have a safety net for people who may be experiencing periods of difficulty and struggle.

Promoting good mental health in the workplace starts from the fundamentals of job design, all the way through to empowering people with the skills to carry out their roles as well as looking after their own wellbeing. Taking a proactive approach by building positive mental health and wellbeing in an organisation is one of the most impactful and sustainable actions leaders can take over the long term.

Of course, some jobs bring with them inherent challenges and risks. The most current example is front line workers in the time of COVID. In this regard, leaders need to be thinking about how to protect or mitigate the specific risks of their people’s situation.

Of course, risks can also be opportunities. You can look at it from a compliance/risk management perspective, or you can look at it from a prevention perspective, seeking opportunities to manage and minimise those risks well in advance.

For people who have experiences of mental ill health, leaders also need to provide links to avenues of support.  Leaders can play an important role in ensuring that staff have access to a range of workplace and professional supports, services and advice that can help manage their challenges and promote recovery. 

Creating a psychologically sustainable work environment leads to a positive culture that is self-reinforcing. When leaders think, communicate and act in ways that create a mentally healthy workplace, their people respond well, encouraging a mutual responsibility for psychological health at work.

Our webinar Leading for mental health and wellbeing webinar empowers and enables leaders to understand and carry out their roles and responsibilities to promote, protect and respond to employee wellbeing.