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How to support mental health in the workplace

How to Support Mental Health in the Workplace

What you can now copy from the TOP companies like PWC and AMP on how they boost their employees’ Mental Health while improving Corporate Culture, Engagement and Profitability

Most management teams these days don’t need to be convinced that taking care of their team’s mental health is a good idea. But many managers don’t know where to start to support their employees. Here we show you what some top companies are doing in this important space, so you can copy and use what you need.

  1. These companies recognise the importance of investing in their employees’ mental health.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health disorders affect nearly one in four people each year. Depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders are among the top causes of disability worldwide.1

Since people tend to spend most of their working life at work, it follows that mental health issues affect all areas of a person’s life, including work.

How to support mental health in the workplace

WHO estimates the global cost of depression and anxiety at more than $1.2 trillion per year in lost productivity.2 Left untreated, depression and other issues can affect absenteeism, productivity, and put workers at an increased risk of suicide. In short, having a reactive (or non-existent) approach to supporting mental health at work is eating up massive amounts of profits in businesses everywhere.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get help for mental health problems. Most people won’t even tell their immediate boss that there’s a problem. Up to fifty percent of people will not disclose at work. And, even more concerning, two-thirds of people who have a mental disorder won’t seek any professional treatment. Some say that the very real fear of discrimination and stigma are two gigantic obstacles that prevent people from getting help.

Mental health has long been considered an off-limits topic in the workplace. Thankfully, smart business leaders are beginning to recognise the importance of helping their employees’ stay emotionally fit. Here are three ways that top companies put mental health and well-being first.

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  1. They Teach Employees’ How To Help Struggling Co-Workers

Most people are not trained to comfortably or effectively talk to someone about their mental health, especially in the workplace. If you don’t know what you are doing, you could make matters worse. AMP, which is a global company and also one of Australia’s largest companies, helps their employees learn how to help co-workers struggling with mental health issues. The financial giant has implemented a training program, called Mental Health Essentials, that equips team members with the skills to recognise when a co-worker is struggling and to get that person appropriate help.3 To upskill their managers and executives they’ve also run the Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders. AMP has had this Masterclass training delivered all over Australia, the UK and the USA, with great results.

  1. They Partner With Leading Mental Health Organisations And Don’t Try To Do It All Themselves

Another way that top companies help their employees is by collaborating with trusted mental health organisation’s. PWC, AMP and The Star Group partner with several well-known mental health groups, but in particular the Workplace Mental Health Institute. By working with leaders in mental health advocacy, support, and recovery, you too can learn how to proactively support your employees’ mental health, be better prepared organisationally to manage risk and safety, and be better equipped to help colleagues.3

  1. They Promote A Culture Of Openness And Trust

A high level of stigma exists surrounding mental health issues. This is an ongoing problem. More than 40 percent of U.K employers believe that hiring a person with mental illness represents a significant risk to the company, according to a 2010 survey among employers.4 Workers with mental illness are seen as unreliable and hard to get along with.

These types of beliefs in the workplace can cause employees to be reluctant to get help. Workers who call in sick because of depression or anxiety may make up other reasons for their absence. They may believe that being honest will cause their employers to pass them over for job promotions.

This culture needs to change if employers want healthier, more productive employees. One Australian company that understands the importance of fostering an open culture when it comes to mental illness is EY. Ernst & Young has collated information of other companies that are doing well in this space and they report it’s important for companies to share knowledge and information with its managers, supervisors, and employees about mental illness. The company that does well promotes an open dialogue when it comes to talking about mental illness. According to EY, openness and proactive early intervention result in decreased mental-health related claims.5

As an employer, there’s a lot that you can do to support your employees’ mental health. Try some of the things that the world’s top companies are doing to support workers’ mental health. You’ll see what a difference these changes can make to your organisation and your employees’ well-being.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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WMHI-Lessons-Learned

Focus on the Learning, Not the Lesson

A friend from my days as a psychologist in the Army once told me about her role as a counsellor for Army recruits. Twenty-five years ago recruit training methods were, well, different to what they are today. Many recruits found the style of their instructors to be intimidating and scary, leading some of them to have second thoughts about their worthiness to be a soldier. Upon seeking some guidance, recruits would reflect that they weren’t cut out for the role.

Imagine the recruit’s instructor has said to the recruits, “Right you lazy lot, get your useless behinds to the mess hall, make sure you eat ‘cos you’re going to need something to puke up this morning in training, then be back here in 15 minutes, or you’ll be scrubbing the showers with your toothbrushes!”. The recruit, understandably, explains to my friend that they don’t feel their instructor has much faith in them.  (This ineffective training style has thankfully disappeared from recruit training establishments!)


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My friend would ask them to tell her what it was that the instructor had actually asked them to do.

  • “Go eat breakfast, then be back in 15 minutes”, would come the reply.
  • “And what happens if you focus on the other stuff they’ve said?”
  • “I feel horrible, can hardly eat, and just want to go home”.
  • “Does that help you to achieve your training goals?”
  • “No.”
  • “What difference would it make if you were only to focus on the message, but not the delivery?”

The recruit’s face would visibly shift with the new thought, “I’d know what they wanted me to do, but I wouldn’t take all the other stuff to heart”.

Thankfully the majority of us do not experience this degree of ferociousness in the feedback we get at work. Regardless, the principle is the same – focus on the message, not the delivery. The delivery does not change the message, only the impact of the message, so if that impact is not helpful try to focus just on the message. Reframe the message in a way that is positive rather than negative. Instead of “My boss hates it when I ramble in my emails”, think, “My boss prefers brief emails”.

Those of us who are managers can focus on identifying what an individual needs to learn in order to avoid repeating a mistake. In providing performance management, the error will be a part of the discussion, but not the focus of the discussion – effective work behaviour is the focus. Some workplaces do not see mistakes as the learning opportunities they present, but in an environment where the employee’s manager is able to coach them through the lessons learned, the result is an employee who is better prepared to apply the new knowledge to their advantage.

When the culture is that of blame the focus is on the mistake, or the lesson – when the organisation has a coaching culture the focus is on the next step, or the learning.

Author: Alison Skate
Alison Skate author

Alison Skate is a Workplace Mental Health Specialist for Workplace Mental Health Institute. She began her career as a psychologist in the Australian Army more than twenty years ago. Alison is a leadership coach and workshop facilitator.

Peter-Diaz-with-Steve-Wozniak

My Main Peeve About Workplace Mental Health and what Steve Wozniak (co founder of Apple) told me about it

I’m a pretty positive guy. I actively practice positivity and this builds resilience. But today, just today, I have to share one of my peeves, if that’s ok. Most people I meet intellectually know and agree that mental health at work is important and vital to get good results. But the thing that frustrates me and annoys me the most, my main peeve about workplace mental health, is that I have to ‘convince’ people to actually take action and do something about it. REALLY? Can you believe it? If people truly understood and believed that taking care of your employees is important, and will give you better business results, then why don’t they do anything about it? Even the research clearly shows that every dollar spent in mental health and wellbeing has an average of 230% return on investment! (and we get a much higher ROI than that!)


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Yet people are slow to act, while their profits are silently drained out of the businesses, and employees are quietly (or not so quietly) burning out. I recently interviewed STEVE WOZNIAK, Apple co-founder with Steve Jobs, and asked him what he thought about this. He confirms it – investing in wellbeing and mental health of your employees is a no-brainer. In the interview, he shares a little about his experience with and thoughts on mental health and psychology, both at Apple, and when he returned to Uni later on (under a false name)! What I love about Steve Wozniak is that he is such a great, down-to-Earth guy. He has family here in Australia, so hopefully, I’ll be able to catch up again on his next visit! This interview is interesting both from a mental health angle and also a human angle. Have a look.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Develop-Resilience-for-Workplace

8 Tips On How To Develop Resilience For Surviving The Modern Workplace Mentally Healthy

One way to notice a well-adjusted and mentally healthy employee is through his or her resilience. By resilience we mean the ability individuals have to bounce back quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Resilient employees have the capacity to handle the strains of the contemporary workplace. This means that they can manage stress well without necessarily placing their jobs in jeopardy. Resilience is good for workplace mental health. It allows an individual to respond to the demands of life without succumbing to pressure. Resilience also allows employees to deal with the demands of their jobs especially if the job requires them to change their priorities often and regularly. The ability to cope with the stresses and adversities of work and daily life requires a change in attitude and thoughts. But, how do you do that? Here are a few ways that employees can develop resilience at work:


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  1. Create and appreciate positive relationships. By appreciating the existing social support you get at work, you become more able to develop positive relationships in the workplace. These positive relationships come in handy later when you need encouragement, which fosters your ability to cope and your resilience as a human being.
  2. Practice viewing obstacles as opportunities or challenges. What can you learn from this situation? Employees can learn to treat difficulties as a platform for learning rather than as an impediment to their careers. Developing the habit of transforming challenges into opportunities is an invaluable skill that leads to self-development, resilience and progress.
  3. Celebrate success, even small ones. Celebrating success and small victories every time they occur fosters resilience. Employees should carve out some time in their day to enjoy the highs in their careers. This trains employees brains to look for the positive and to look forward to possible future successes in their line of work rather than dwell on the negatives or difficulties of their job.
  4. Craft a plan. Developing viable and meaningful career objectives that have a sense of purpose for the individual allows employees to bridge work and other life goals. In this way, they are encouraged to develop resilience even in the heart of adversity as they are working towards a motivating personalised objective.
  5. Develop more confidence. Building levels of self-confidence allow employees to live in the knowledge that they are going to succeed eventually. Despite the drawbacks that may occur, confidence enables people to take risks in their personal life and their careers, which give them the energy to move forward in life.
  6. Learn to see things from a different angle. Resilient people know how to develop perspective, which enables them to understand that although a circumstance may seem overwhelming and impossible to maneuver now, it will not seem so later; ‘in the long run, it’ll all work out for the best’.
  7. Restructure your mind. Learning how to handle tough situations requires, at times, a complete restructuring of the mind. Bad days are inevitable, and learning how to react to them without blowing things out of proportion is part of being resilient.
  8. Be flexible. Flexibility enables resilient people to understand that things are never be constant. As such, being flexible allows people to shift and amend their goals at an appropriate, and healthy, speed.

Resilience is an invaluable skill to have in the workplace as it allows one to handle the difficulties that arise from working in a stressful environment. At the Workplace Mental Health Institute we take resilience very important. It’s a key protector of people’s mental health. Help your employees develop resilience and you immunize them from mental health problems.

Would you like to learn more? We run mental health courses on resilience. Our most popular course is the Building Resilience At Work. Check it out.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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loyalty

Workplace loyalty is dead. Or is it?

Looking around at today’s organisation and it would seem as though employee loyalty to their organisation and organisations’ loyalty to their employees is dead. For many of today’s workforce, the greener grass at the other company or new position is too tempting to pass up. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn showed that Millennials, those who reach adulthood in the 20th century, will work for nearly twice as many companies in the first five years of their career than their parents did. What’s more, today the average person will have twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. Is this the nail in the coffin for loyalty?

A look at history

In the not-so-distant past, loyalty in the workplace meant remaining at the same company throughout a person’s career. During much of the 20th century, employees would work their entire career for one or two employers and in return, the organisation would give their employees the unspoken promise of lifetime employment and a pension retirement. With the popularity of unionisation throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, collective bargaining agreements and the promise of steady raises and consistent employment held employees to their companies during uncertain economic times where double digit inflation was the norm. However, as the grip of unions began to loosen in the 1990’s in favor of human resource departments and individual performance reviews, employee loyalty began to loosen as well. With the advent of the internet and the expansion of a global economy, suddenly labor costs could be cut dramatically by hiring a less expensive workforce in another country and a company’s loyalty to their workers at home was cast aside in favor of global expansion and rising profits.


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Redefining Loyalty

While it is tempting to assume that in today’s economy, it is impossible for organisations to show loyalty to their employees, it perhaps is more important to redefine what loyalty looks like in the 21st century. Where our parents and grandparents showed loyalty to their company by doing their job tirelessly for 30 or 40 years, today’s worker is more likely to look for ways to use their individual talents on behalf of the organisation. Whether they are looking for innovative ways to solve a problem, creating effective work teams or helping employees reach their own career potential, today’s workers are driven by a need to see how their work relates to the organisational objectives as a whole. Managers who use performance reviews to discuss how an individual’s goals relate to the overall organisational mission will be rewarded with loyalty to that objective. Such loyalty is arguably more productive in today’s fast-paced business environment and contributes to a strong workplace culture.

Loyalty can also be defined as compensating employees fairly for the work they are completing. Too many companies rely on their organisational mission for their compensation strategy, arguing that contributing to their purpose should be enough to combat unfair wages. In reality, organisations who compensate their employees fairly and who have clearly defined objectives for bonuses and raises are more likely to retain their employees.

While it is nice to talk about organisation-wide strategies for both garnering and showing loyalty, applying these principles on a team level may be even more important. While more than 30% of Fortune 500 chief executives have lasted less than three years over the course of the last two decades, research from the Gallup organisation shows that employee engagement, a common indicator of productivity, has declined across industries over the last decade. Since top-down initiatives cannot function if senior leadership is in constant fluctuation, the lot falls to mid-level managers to foster team loyalty:

  1. Identify and reiterate the team’s purpose. Align the team’s short and long-term goals with organisational strategy that will help team members see how their success contributes to the business as a whole.
  2. Encourage open discussion without blame or shame. Creating an environment where ideas, opinions, successes and failures can be shared without fear of negative repercussions fosters a sense of loyalty amongst a team’s members.
  3. Ask more questions than you answer. Casting a wide net throughout the team for feedback and input allows everyone to express their feelings and work toward a consensus.
  4. Openly praise success. Both individual and team-based success should be frequently praised in public when objectives are achieved.

While it is unlikely a person will end their career with the same company they began it with, loyalty to a team or organisation is not dead. Instead, it has a new face that is reflective of a fast-paced, changing economy.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Office-files

How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work

4 reasons why you can’t say no to too much work

Let’s say you find yourself tasked with leading a new project – say it’s the rollout of a company-wide performance management system.

In your first strategy meeting your team determines that you need to conduct interviews with managers, create and validate metrics for making hiring and promotion decisions, and work with senior leaders to ensure the system is in keeping with corporate culture. As you begin to divide tasks, you volunteer to conduct the interviews because you are the project manager and you want to lead from the front. Then, you offer to take a second look at the metrics to give them a “second set of eyes”. Then, since you are leading the team, you begin meeting with senior leaders too. Before long you start to struggle to meet your commitments, and feel a growing resentment toward the rest of the team for not pulling their weight.

Does this pattern sound familiar to you? Outside of the specifics of the performance management project example, many of us take on too much work and this leads to resentment.

We often give a hundred reasons why we do take on so much work, to the point of not being able to do any of it well. However, they can generally be distilled into three categories.


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We want to please

Regardless of whether you classify yourself as a “people pleaser” or not, everyone loves to feel needed and appreciated. However, typically people who struggle to say, “No” to a request have an intense fear of rejection or a fear of failure. Our early life experiences with especially harsh or critical parents can often result in the feeling that your inaction will result in the disappointment of your friends or colleagues. The desire to please is also deeply connected with anxiety, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, stress, and depression.

We have a lack of self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of those terms that everyone loves to throw around but few will do the difficult work to acquire. When we don’t have a good handle on our own capacity or ability level, it is easy to underestimate how much effort a certain task will require from us. If you continuously make work decisions with a lack of self-awareness, you will often find yourself buried under a mountain of tasks you do not have the ability to complete in a timely and efficient manner.

We don’t think we have a choice

The idea that you do not have a choice whether to take on a task is partly connected to a need to please and often connected to feelings of insecurity or anxiety. Once you begin making work decisions based on feelings of helplessness, resentment and anger soon follow. Before long, you are left feeling “stuck” or “trapped” in your job, even if it is something you previously enjoyed.

What to do instead

Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies to avoid taking on too much at work. First, learn how to wait. Often times people who take on too much do not wait for others to volunteer. Unless the task is something you are excited about, count to 20 and really consider the task before agreeing to it. Second, when faced with a person asking you to do something, ask three questions.

1. What is the specific task that is being requested? Many people love to make requests without completely formulating the task in question. When you ask a requester this question, it forces them to list out the particulars of the task at hand and allow you to determine if it is within your skill set and timeline or not.

2. Will I need to learn a new skill to complete this task? There are times in our careers when we are ready and able to learn a new skill that will benefit us in the long run. If your current workload allows for the time and effort it would require to learn a new skill and if you are interested in the new skill, go for it. If not, politely decline.

3. How does this task fit into my overall workload? If you have to juggle your existing schedule for anything other than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s okay to say “no” instead.

As difficult as it may be to say “no” at work, consider it a long-term investment in your career. Not only will you be perceived as an honest individual, you will be able to reliably meet the deadlines and demands placed on you. Feelings of anger and resentment will melt away and you may even find yourself with more time to pursue career advancement or skill development.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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trust-fall

Does Your Boss Have Your Back?

Let’s start with a couple of hypothetical scenarios.

  1. You have just been given a large project at work. You are excited at the level of responsibility you have been given and the opportunity to show your manager and colleagues what you can really do. As you begin to dig into the work, you discover just how much you are taking on. Overwhelmed at the possibility of failure, you begin to wonder – did your manager give you this project because they trust you to get the job done, or are they setting you up to fail?
  2. You’ve been asked to lead a change in your department. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get traction. You begin to feel trapped between direct reports who are resistant to your efforts and managers who expect change to come swiftly and seamlessly. What do you do?

Whether you feel like you are being sabotaged in the workplace or you are questioning the authenticity of your managers’ requests, it is important to realize that everyone experiences a certain amount of workplace paranoia from time to time. Today’s competitive economy seems to breed workplaces where managers and employees alike are feeling more pressure than ever to perform at a maximum level, 100 percent of the time.

In reality, our feelings of uncertainty are driving our perceptions of our workplace relationships rather than reality. As a result, the way we handle the situation is likely based on our perception rather than reality as well.


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Let’s take these two scenarios and examine what might really be going on.

SCENARIO 1

Perception: Your manager has placed you in charge of a large project. Overwhelmed by the vastness of what you are being asked to do, you wonder if they are setting you up to fail. Feeling defeated and abandoned, you likely react in one of two ways. Either you attempt to buckle down and do your job, but find yourself on edge or miserable. Or you admit defeat, update your resume, and chalk your experience up to your terrible manager.

Reality: Your manager is terrible at reading your mind. Chances are, they have no idea that you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about your ability to complete the project or lead the team or do the task. Fortunately, most managers do not want to set their teams up for failure but instead are happy to mentor their employees during particularly difficult projects or transitions. Rather than trying to go it alone or giving up, bring your concerns to them and ask for help regarding next steps.

SCENARIO 2

Perception: As a change agent in your organization, you are caught between employees who are resistant to your ideas and bosses who expect huge changes in a short amount of time. You begin to wonder if you will be able to keep your job or if you will become the latest casualty of the organization.

Reality: If you are undergoing organizational change, chances are your manager is too. It is entirely likely that they’re feeling unsupported by their managers while experiencing resistance from their subordinates. Without realizing it, managers can pass on their own feelings of corporate paranoia, especially during large scale change. Rather than assuming your manager is asking you to do the impossible while leaving you to manage your department’s change on your own, discuss how you can strategically support one another.

If you are still uncertain as to whether your boss has your back, schedule an opportunity to informally discuss your specific situation with them. Go for coffee, ask if they are happy with how your team is functioning. Ask for feedback on whether you should be doing things differently over a casual lunch. Regardless of the setting, be sure you own your perceptions for what they are – your interpretation of the situation. Begin the discussion by asking for clarification, rather than confronting your manager with what you perceive as reality. Not only does this open the lines of communication, it helps you both understand how your personal bias has affected your situation.

You may be surprised to find out that they had your back all along.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Top-3-Tips-for-HR-Managers

Top 3 Tips for HR Managers

Recently, I was asked by a National HR Director for three tips she could give to a meeting of HR Leaders. She only had one hour. Here are my top three tips (mind you, these are the ones that come to the top of my mind straight away but by no means the only ones! Any surprises?

The top three tips I would give are:

1. Don’t be in a hurry to send people home
– often, when someone has expressed some problems with mental health, managers panic and their first response is to send someone home. In fact, that is not necessarily the best thing for the person’s well being nor for the business. If the person goes home, they can start ruminating about challenges at work, feeling like a failure for not being able to perform at the level they want to, and returning to work becomes harder and harder. Statistically, once a person has been absent due to stress of mental ill-health for more than 3 days, the likelihood of them returning to work is very slim. We know staying at work is better for their mental health. And for the business, when someone has gone home, others have to pick up the extra work, leading to more pressure on those team members, and resentment towards the absent person (or their manager). It’s much better if you can work with the person to negotiate a way they can stay at work – perhaps some reasonable adjustments are needed for a certain period of time. But in order to navigate these conversations, managers have to have good skills and a solid understanding of the complexities of mental health issues.


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2. Play nice and be kind
– given the research shows that between 20-30% of people will experience a mental health issue each year, it is not anything to be frowned upon, or which should be a surprise for managers. It doesn’t discriminate according to your job position either. It just as likely could be a supervisor, a senior manager, or the CEO who is going through something challenging like this. So when we are responding to mental health in the workplace, we need to consider how we would like to be treated if it was us? The relationship that the staff member has with their direct supervisor is the most critical indicator of how a mental health problem will impact the workplace. Whether it is a small matter that gets dealt with early, or whether it unravels and becomes a psychological injury claim. Managers need to watch their own frustration with people experiencing mental ill-health, in order to manage it in the best way possible. This takes a high degree of resilience and emotional intelligence.

3. Have higher expectations of people with mental health problems
– returning again to the statistics of 20-30% or people, that means that up to a third of your workforce may be experiencing mental health problems in any one year. Mental health problems may impact on their work, but for many people work becomes a safe haven, where they can feel productive and contribute. Just having a mental health problem does not necessarily mean the person has lost any intelligence, skills or capability. However they may need some extra support. At the WMHI our position is that we need to support employees to meet the expected level of performance, rather than lower the expectations. This is another conversation that managers need to be able to have skilfully.

That is what I’d like to communicate to your managers too. If this sounds right to you, I’d be happy to have a chat with you about these concepts if you think it would be useful.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Pillar-2-Organisational-Plasticity

Building a Mentally Healthy Workplace: 2nd Pillar

Workplace mental health is a growing concern for many managers. Many of the traditional approaches to addressing mental health at work, are simply not working, and in some cases, are even making things worse!

In this video series, the 7 Pillars of a Mentally Healthy Workplace, we take an honest look at 7 principles, or 7 areas, that if addressed can minimise the impact of mental ill-health at work, and create a healthy and safe workplace culture that performs really well, even under high pressure situations.

Today, I will be talking about Pillar number 2 – Organisational Plasticity.

Pillar, or principle, number 2 – Organisational Plasticity helps managers like you address a Toxic Fume that often creeps into teams inadvertently, the toxic fume of the ‘Fear of Making a Mistake’.

You see, managers are expected to avoid risk at all costs these days. And that means they are looking for a definite process, that will deliver a definite result.

But when it comes to Mental Health, there is no definite solution for all employees. There is no one size fits all process to be followed.

Unfortunately, when someone becomes mentally unwell at work, most workplaces tend to apply just 2 default options – either send the person to an EAP service (that’s an employee assistance program), or send them away on leave. While these two options are a good start, they are just not enough. And the underlying message that staff can hear is go take your problem somewhere else. Now I know that’s not what is meant, but that is what some people will hear.

In our mental health workshops for managers, we educate participants about the concept of frames in mental health. A frame, is a specific way that a person makes sense of their world – their life view.

Square businessman fitting in formThat means that they come to you with an understanding, and an explanation, of what life is about, what is happening for them, and what needs to be done, that might be completely opposite to yours.

Our workplaces, and indeed our society right now favours the Medical and Psychological frames. That is why, when someone is unwell, most workplaces encourage the person to seek medical help, or counseling (usually through EAP). But not everyone views mental health through these lenses.

And this is important because your colleague is going to access the help they need through their preferred frame, not yours. And, if they are to recover, they will do so by taking steps through their preferred frame.

If we, as managers or as organisations, push our own frame onto the person, the likely result will be one of conflict, resistance and, in some cases, complaints of harassment and/or bullying.

So what can we do? Firstly, we need to find out the persons Frame – their preferred explanation of what is happening. Once you know their frame, you know what motivates them, now you are ready to elicit solutions from them and get better outcomes. We talk more about how to do this in our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders course.

And what can we do as organisations? We need to be willing to be very flexible in our approach, and provide a range of possible solutions & supports for people to access.

Now, this can be difficult for managers, and when faced with a complicated mental health situation, many feel out of their depth. And that’s to be expected. After all, managers are trained in management, not in mental health or psychology. Why would we expect them to be experts in this area?

But because of that unknown, more often than you think, managers hope that the problem will go away and, when it doesn’t, they do what we all do in difficult situations: overreact and become rigid, even controlling. Why? Because we fear making a mistake that will hurt our reputation and we become defensive.

Instead of becoming very rigid in our approach, we need to do just the opposite, open up to alternative solutions, that are chosen by the individual. These are the ones that are most likely to work – getting the best outcomes for the person involved, the whole team, and the business.

How else can we demonstrate this second pillar – Organisational Plasticity?

Make sure that you engage your team in coming up with a variety of honest and truly flexible arrangements that encourage wellbeing in your teams. This can be a very useful & healthy exercise for all, especially if everyone can benefit, regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not. Or course, this doesn’t mean that anything goes. We understand that these Authentically Flexible arrangements will, out of necessity, vary from one organisation to another. But these are a great start.

The other thing you can do is to make sure you get to be known by your team as someone able and willing to adjust and adapt as necessary. Someone able to let go of old ways and embrace new ways. This will build the trust you need to build a great team that has fun and enjoys good mental health – while also performing at high levels! ☺

And there you have it, Pillar number 2 Organisational Plasticity – address the fear of making a mistake that creeps into teams when it comes to mental health and encourage authentic & flexible arrangements as a way to build trust.

I hope you enjoyed this video. I wonder if it would be ok with you that I ask that you share this video with other managers or HR and WHS professionals that you think might benefit. Thank you. Bye for now ☺

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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