Employee Wellbeing: Asking the Right Questions
The role of managers is changing. Increasingly businesses are aware that their financial success is limited by their levels of employee engagement. The topical subject of mental health is becoming more relevant (or perhaps more illuminated) in the workplace. It falls to managers to promote the emotional well-being of their team to ensure productivity and engagement remain high, and that absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turn-over are kept at a minimum.
Weekly10’s aim is to facilitate better communication and effective people management, but some managers must be left wondering what to do with these tools they’ve been given. In trying to gauge a team’s mental wellbeing where does a manager begin? What questions are the right ones in this highly difficult and challenging area of people management? Most managers probably feel, and who could blame them, woefully unqualified and perhaps too awkward to broach the subject of mental health with their colleagues.
The most important thing is to askSarah Hughes – The Centre for Mental Health
The Right Questions
As Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health is at pains to stress, the most important thing is to ask. By even reading this article, asking yourself how you as a manager should engage with this issue, you are already most of the way there. The most important step in addressing the issue of mental health in the workplace is to address it; managers must not remain silent on this issue and continue to proliferate the stigma that surrounds it.
The right questions, as Fatama Kamara notes are ‘simple’ and ‘non-judgemental’. Open questions which invite conversation, not probing for a particular answer always stand the greatest chance of attaining a response.
Creating the Culture
Most importantly as James Malia suggests, asking those questions are just a small part of a culture everyone must be striving to create from the top of the company down. Creating a culture that speaks openly of mental health in an effort to banish any stigmas, is honest and open about mental health, provides regular check-ins with their team and puts time and effort into spotting the warning signs are all key actions that allow your questions as a manager or colleague to be effective. If questions are only ever asked in isolation, without an open and non-judgemental culture behind them, you will never achieve an honest response. Similarly, if communications are not regular, you won’t have a foundation of trust with your employees, nor an understanding of them as people to know the warning signs when they are there.
Know your Limits
An important last thought that many mental health specialists have stressed has been to know your limits as a manager. In respect of your own mental wellbeing be aware that your own abilities to solve the problems of others is extremely limited. Often you can’t and won’t be able to solve your employee’s mental health issues.
Being able to recognise issues at an early stage, refer someone to a specialist and offer your time to listen will often be the limit to what help you can give. Employers are never qualified to give diagnosis nor recommend treatment. However, all this does not mean your work as a manager is not vital to the process in helping those with specific issues, similarly, for those people whose mental health has not yet deteriorated significantly your input could be a significant step in preventing further issues.