Investing in workplace mental wellbeing is quickly becoming the dividing factor between a thriving business, and one that struggles to retain staff, boost productivity and maintain growth.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to workplace wellbeing, the time and effort invested into building it is always worth it. Companies that invest in their employees’ mental health and overall wellbeing see:
- Higher productivity
- Better staff retention
- Steadier growth
This is because employees feel valued and have a stronger sense of purpose, leading to higher job satisfaction.
There are several factors that leaders need to consider when looking to improve wellbeing in the workplace. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the restrictive habits that workplaces may be stuck in that can hinder wellbeing, and how to overcome them.
Reactive management is a leadership style that focuses on putting out fires as they occur. Although necessary in times of unexpected change, this management method leaves little to no time for strategic planning and can hinder growth opportunities.
Reactive management often occurs due to poorly structured processes and policies. If left unchecked for too long, it can have a negative impact on workplace wellbeing. How?
Employees who are constantly asked to shift priorities to “fix a problem” at work, often lose their sense of direction and motivation.
Having a sense of purpose at work is an imperative part of a person’s ability to stay engaged with work and maintain job satisfaction. If the ability to do so is constantly disrupted, your organisation will experience a significant dip in employee engagement and satisfaction.
To overcome these issues, it’s important for your organisation to shift to a more proactive management approach. This approach focuses on putting effective policies and processes in place to help avoid issues that often arise due to poor planning.
To start implementing more proactive management strategies, you can:
Focus on time managementAsk yourself what tasks are “now tasks” and which tasks can be placed lower on the priority list.
Look at your current processesIf your current processes constantly lead to delays and complications, it’s time to speak to your team to understand when things are going wrong. From here, you can anticipate and re-strategise to avoid these issues.
Open up your communicationReactive management often occurs due to poor communication during periods of high stress. Verbally acknowledging issues with your team and communicating steps to resolve issues is a great way to begin to address and diminish workplace stress. Encourage questions and feedback.
A Lack of Work Autonomy
Autonomy at work is an essential part of workplace wellbeing. Having a lack of (or no) control over your work will eventually lead to a decrease in job motivation and engagement, while cynical feelings towards work will rise.
Employees should feel trusted to negotiate, structure and approach their work in a way that is most productive and healthy to them. By giving agency to your employees to self-direct, you’re fostering a deeper level of trust within themselves to tackle their roles.
Encouraging employees to exercise job agency lowers burnout and increases:
- Ownership and pride over work output
- Confidence levels at work
- Positive thoughts related to work
- Employee engagement
To help encourage work autonomy in the workplace, you can:
Turn mistakes into learning opportunitiesAllow employees to reflect, review and adapt their work approach based on their responsibilities. Avoid being over-critical of mistakes or errors. Rather, encourage your employees to take initiative and incorporate creative thinking to improve their workflow.
Allow teams to choose their resourcesEncourage teams to take responsibility for choosing, implementing and effectively using their resources and work tools. By allowing teams to dictate the resources they require to best meet their needs, you’re encouraging ownership of their output.
Communicate regularlyWork autonomy does not mean complete disengagement from leadership. Managers should ensure communication structures are in place to help monitor and review how individuals and teams are working, while also identifying any roadblocks or concerns.
Step aside, build trust and collaborateMicromanaging has no place in a workplace that’s trying to encourage autonomy. Find a balance that grants employees the freedom to control their work, while still offering support and advice. A manager that shows their employees trust, will receive trust in return.
A Work-Life Imbalance
Credited to be one of the leading factors that has improved work wellbeing in recent years, flexible work needs to be the modern workplace’s new norm.
As people continue to prioritise supporting their mental wellbeing over a strict office 9-5, organisations who refuse to offer hybrid working solutions will see serious consequences on employee mental health, and by extension, employee retention.
When employees are given a flexible work option, they are more likely to feel connected with an organisation’s overall culture and values, increasing their engagement and productivity.
To begin incorporating flexible working solutions, organisations need to:
Create a flexible working policyFor flexible working solutions to be effective, a clear structured policy needs to be confirmed and shared with your employees. Your policy needs to identify what type of flexible working your organisation will offer, who is eligible and organisation expectations for those who will take part.
Guide your staffManagers, HR and senior leadership need to be prepared to set discretionary boundaries to flexible working situations. Responsibility and workload shifts should be minimal to ensure no one is overworked.
Listen to your staffFlexible working should improve workplace culture, not hinder it. Monitor, review and communicate with staff about the changes. Take on feedback and remain malleable in your approach to this new working norm.
Expecting too much of any one individual or team can be severely detrimental to workplace wellbeing. Over time, employees who constantly work above their reasonable capacity will reach a point of exhaustion, disengagement and overall unhappiness in their jobs. Or, in other words, burnout.
Unbalanced workloads usually occur when there’s a lack of communication between a manager and employee surrounding their on-going responsibilities and current work capacity. This is usually coupled with a workplace culture that doesn’t promote speaking up when feeling overwhelmed or overworked.
So, how do you help prevent unmanageable workloads across your organisation?
Promote self-careEncourage your employees to take care of their physical and mental health. Some self-care initiatives that you can incorporate include:
- Offering a gym membership as a company benefit
- Supplying nutritious snacks in the office
- Giving employees access to mindfulness resources
- Starting “group lunches” to encourage all employees to take their lunch breaks and socialise with their coworkers
- Encourage employees to use their annual leave
Incorporate capacity planningBefore launching a new project, take a realistic look at your current resources. Do the right employees have the capacity to take on new responsibilities right now? If not, proper capacity management will require you to either re-distribute responsibilities, or hire more people to cope with the influx of work.
Lead by exampleWorkload management should be a priority across all levels within an organisation. Ensuring your leadership team is leading by example will help to foster a healthy workplace culture that prioritises employee wellbeing.
Tips for Managing Employee Burnout
Discover how to recognise burnout in your team and learn strategies to protect and help employees recover from this detrimental (yet common) issue.
Lack of support
An organisation’s leaders are the make or break of workplace culture. It’s these individuals who can help build and shape the correct structures, communication habits and culture that will champion employee wellbeing.
Supportive management will encourage employees to communicate issues that may be hindering their wellbeing, allowing for organisations to address problems before they escalate.
Employees who feel like they don’t have a support network at work, however, often stay silent. It’s in this silence that issues can grow to unmanageable proportions, leading to employee burnout, high staff turnover and business stagnancy.
To build supportive networks for your employees at work, you can:
Offer leadership training to all managersThere are many skills involved in being a good manager—many of which being people skills. By providing proper training, your managers can feel more prepared to balance and benefit both the corporate and people side of leadership.
Incorporate a mentoring programProviding your employees with a senior mentor encourages relationship building across all levels. A mentoring program presents an opportunity for people to learn directly from their more experienced peers, while also receiving one-on-one support.
Encourage regular check-insCommunication is key, no matter the company or industry. Regular, scheduled check-ins provide your employees with the opportunity to voice their experiences, concerns and feedback, making them feel heard and valued.
Improving workplace wellbeing is a never-ending process that requires organisations to be flexible, creative and most importantly, understanding. The benefits of dedicating time, effort and resources into your employee wellbeing initiatives, however, are invaluable.
Need more guidance on how to approach employee wellbeing in the workplace?