A mentally healthy company culture is the backbone of any successful and high-performing business. In order for employees to avoid high levels of anxiety and chronic stress, and in turn increase their resilience in the face of challenges and change, they must feel supported and motivated by colleagues and leaders alike. When leaders nurture a company culture of openness, empathy and engagement, the workplace thrives – employee wellbeing and overall job satisfaction increases, encouraging high-performance and happiness.
Here are five ways leaders can cultivate a mentally healthy culture:
Focus on not jumping to activity
Cultivating a mentally healthy culture takes time. When it comes to workplace wellbeing, leaders need to shift their thinking from seeing wellness as a quick tick-box exercise to a human lens. The one-off wellness day or activity won’t cut it. Leaders must invest their efforts in creating a comprehensive wellbeing strategy, in order to affect long-term, systemic organisational change to employee mental health support.
Discover the wants and needs of your employees
Leaders must take the time to actively listen to and truly understand the wellbeing wants and needs of their employees through a blend of qualitative and quantitative research. A good place to start is with a wellbeing survey (or review existing results), before drawing out the key themes and exploring them in more depth with focus groups and discussions. Encourage employee-led ideas, enabling your workforce to be part of the solutions and therefore driving advocacy.
Role model openness about mental health
Role modelling openness about mental health from the top down is vital. When senior leaders show a willingness to discuss the challenges that they themselves face, employees will feel more comfortable and confident to do the same. It can be difficult, but lead by example and don’t shy away from conversations about mental health in the workplace.
Show empathy and vulnerability
Empathetic leadership is one of the keys to great company culture. As a leader, you should make a point to be vulnerable and put yourself in the shoes of your employees, to listen to and understand their point of view. Be open-minded and approachable so your team feels comfortable turning to you for support, both in a professional and personal capacity. There will be employees whose auto-response is to suffer in silence, so stay alert to any subtle changes in your staff’s behaviour, knowing that people may be thriving on the outside but struggling on the inside.
Cultivate psychological safety
Leaders who prioritise psychological safety can create a culture of honesty, transparency and trust, leading to a happier and mentally healthy team. This means knowing there are no stupid questions, not being shot down in meetings, and one step further, not afraid to challenge or express your worries – whatever your position. Organisations where there is psychological safety enable employees to express who they are as individuals without fear of rebuttal. As a result, employees feel safe to create and express new ideas, moving the business forward.
In a workplace that is facing constant change and uncertainty, ensuring that the mental health of your workforce is supported should be a top priority. Creating an open culture where employees feel listened to and understood will increase trust and connection, both between leaders and their teams and between team members themselves. This in turn will lead to increased engagement, productivity and performance across the organisation as a whole.