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Optimum Talks Blog

Mental Health in the Workplace

by Janine Robin

Attention Leaders!  You may be surprised to learn that according to a Harvard Business article from 2015, managers are the most likely group in your workplace to experience depression. The study acknowledges that while it’s an essential step in career progression this group can be left in limbo as the mid-level nature of this position limits exposure to the positive impact of one’s work on the ground level, while also restricting the power required to make high-level decisions. Within these roles, employees are more likely to lose sight of the value of their work, which can lead to greater challenges and higher stress levels.

If this sounds familiar it’s because a large portion of the workplace falls into this group in one way or another. Given these findings and the increasing initiative to promote positive mental health in the workplace, we have compiled some ways to help leaders and HR support these colleagues:

  1. Offer Appropriate Training to Managers in a New Role

Offering support and training programs can go a long way in alleviating stress and risk of depression. Providing career development plans can help managers ease into their role by setting expectations and understanding relevancy to their skill set. Manager training should also address the common challenges new managers face such as dealing with a difficult employee and prioritizing time and tasks in order to keep them better prepared and confident.

  1. Survey Employees to Discover Their Needs

It can be hard to understand workloads and stress levels as often people do not want to discuss this openly.  Anonymous employee surveys can help garner honest feedback by taking away the fear, shame or guilt for expressing struggles and challenges in the workplace. If there are clear themes and issues in the results, make an action plan to address the needs of your employees that starts with individual touch-base meetings between all employees and their supervisor.

  1. Encourage Exercise

Exercise is a great way to reduce depression and improve productivity. Implementing a 30-minute walking meeting or quick activity that encourages the team to get moving can help reduce stress the natural way.  Other ideas include posting healthy tips and mindfulness exercises on your intranet and keeping an eye out for any local charity walks or runs in your area.  Healthier employees are happier employees and that is a win-win for everyone.

  1. Integrate Work-Life Balance

Flexible work schedules can provide multiple benefits such as optimizing productivity and boosting employee wellness. When looking at your management group they are likely to span a wide demographic range at various stages in their personal lives including raising young families, continuing education or designations, and dealing with health issues or aging parents. By having flexibility in work arrangements or policies to support employees during difficult times you will encourage a healthier work environment.

  1. Communicate

Frequent and open communication shows your colleagues that you truly want them to thrive in both their personal and professional lives, and it can be as simple as asking questions.  If you think someone on your team is overwhelmed, sad or displaying any other unusual behaviour take some time from your busy schedule to talk to them privately.  This is also a great time to remind them of the company’s benefits and Employee Assistance Program when you feel it is applicable.

How HR and leaders respond to individuals who may be depressed not only impacts the company brand and their personal brand as a leader, but it also impacts overall employee engagement, retention, and attraction.

Keep in mind that these general tips can be helpful on a broad scale, but it is not a guideline for specific individuals suffering major depression. In those cases, we encourage you to employ greater caution and seek outside help and interventions where necessary.

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