As pandemic restrictions came to an end in 2021, McKinsey explored what employees hoped for from their place of work. Their study found that a better work-life balance, flexibility and a greater focus on employee well-being ranked highest.
Now, these three elements are quickly becoming engrained expectations of what a workplace should offer – especially with virtual and remote working. However, these radical shifts in workforce demands also mean that the expectations of managers and business leaders are changing too.
These changes are twofold: the evolving needs from team members about how they want their managers to support them and increasing expectations for companies to openly communicate with employees about what is happening in the business and forecasts for the future.
Both of these aspects signal a growing desire for greater knowledge through open, vulnerable forms of leadership. But how can managers and leaders create this more transparent way of working?
Put empathy and emotional intelligence at the centre of management
Effective management is undoubtedly the nucleus behind what makes a business thrive. As we grow and evolve as a society, an essential element of effective management becomes more visible: supporting the mental health of the workforce.
As a manager, you’re in a difficult position. Despite impending deadlines and KPIs, you have to ensure that those demands are reasonable when your team is going through a tough time. And creating this balance isn’t easy.
60% of knowledge workers said, in a recent Gartner report, that their direct manager is one of the top two influences on their connection to organisational culture. So, managers need to nourish a close relationship with their people that encourages them to share their struggles.
Great leadership is all about mixing those hard technical skills with the essential soft skills that can drive all-around team engagement and happiness. So, companies need to re-skill and recruit good managers with high emotional intelligence, empathy and proactivity. In the past, some employees have been promoted to managers mainly due to their industry expertise and technical skills, but now we must factor in their approach to managing people, too.
Enabling this culture is the crux of what will eventually result in greater success for the whole business.
Reshape management: Create better support for all
If leaders help to shape a more vulnerable, and compassionate culture around communication in the workplace, it will also prioritise managers’ mental health too.
With a third of managers feeling out of their depth when supporting their teams with their day-to-day mental health concerns, providing emotional support can prove to be particularly difficult in those times when managers themselves are struggling in their personal life. These pressures can leave them even more mentally drained and less effective at their job.
Working towards a solution is about implementing a culture that encourages holistic support outside this management hierarchy. With big life events and struggles, workers often end up telling their boss about huge life moments related to physical or mental health before they even can tell their friends. So, providing multiple channels they are comfortable with and can depend on can provide an even greater feeling of trust.
Zoom out: Be transparent about the future
This culture of communication is essential not just for creating an environment where you can disclose what employees need to when it comes to struggles with mental health but also so that they can be part of the decisions when it comes to the direction the business is moving in.
To do this, create more moments to communicate about business as a whole. As a business leader, I find it beneficial for everyone to know the challenges and successes with business performance, especially when workers might be worried about how the uncertain economy will affect their progression and the future of the company.
For example, we created regular discussions that keep us all accountable. Every month we facilitate an in-person get-together for everyone in the London office. Every two weeks we have an organisation-wide gathering with our founders. And every week, we schedule discussions about how the entire region (on the EMEA level) is doing sales-wise. This helps keep us aligned on teamwork, promotes more authentic relationships and enables greater transparency.
Knowing in a business is a powerful thing, whether you are a manager wanting to know whether someone needs help or a business leader wanting to ensure that your employees know where they stand. With this culture in place, businesses can achieve the resilience they need to grow in these uncertain times.