When a company’s culture is a friendly, inclusive one, employees feel valued and worthwhile, creating an environment where everyone can perform at their peak, whatever their role in the company may be. Even the smallest thing can help benefit the working environment, whether that’s lending a hand, sitting down for a chat, or taking time to welcome new starters.
Hand in hand with a positive working environment is the ever-lessening stigma that surrounds mental health; increasingly, people are becoming more and more open with conversations regarding the topic.
With Mental Health Awareness Week only a few days away – the theme of which this year is ‘managing stress’, we’ll look at why a supportive workplace is essential when it comes to maintaining the wellness of your business’ employees.
Consider the ambience of your office: Do your employees interact, and is there an inherent respect across each team? Before you build on support in more tangible ways, it’s important to first establish a culture where people feel comfortable and valued – and which openly embraces different viewpoints.
If there’s an obvious hierarchy in your business, consider blurring the divisions. You’ll still have authority, but employees will appreciate knowing that senior members of staff are approachable and friendly, rather than unreachable and guarded. The rapport and trust that’s built up as a result can have a positive impact on your workforce.
Instead of leaving employees to guess how they’re performing, be sure to give feedback through regular appraisals. This will promote open communication and reduce stress – even when there is significant room for improvement.
In an office environment, the praise and positive reinforcement we might have received throughout school, college, and university takes a dip. After a long project or a tight deadline, there might not be anyone to tell you that you’ve done a good job.
Showing appreciation for people’s efforts is an underrated thing, but something as small as a quick thank you goes a long way. James Calder, Chief Executive at Distinct Recruitment notes, “we always make sure we have regular full-team meetings where we celebrate everyone's successes – large and small – over the past week and ensure there is recognition where it's deserved.
“Stress can be rife in workplaces and whether it's redesigning an office to be a positive physical space, or even bringing in some healthy (or sugary) snacks to keep everyone happy, it's the little things in an open environment that allow communication and wellness to combat stress.”
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking at the best of times. Make sure your new starters are ready to hit the ground running with an onboarding process that runs like a well-oiled machine. Send out an email to the whole team the day before they start, so they’re ready to greet new faces with a warm welcome to ease them in.
Similarly, that easy-going environment you’ve fostered will help to make the job transition a little bit smoother. It may sound cheesy, but take the view that a good company should be like a family – you spend so much time around your co-workers, a positive work environment fosters a social and support network that can make work seem less like a chore and give you something to look forward to on your morning commute.
If you’re feeling stressed or burnt out, there’s a tendency to shy away from talking about it with colleagues or superiors, and those suffering become more insular as a result. Having a system of support in place is highly beneficial; the disclosure of these problems shouldn’t be looked down upon as a sign of weakness.
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Senior management teams have a responsibility to be understanding of these kinds of problems in the workplace and to respond in a tactful way in the event of people disclosing mental health problems. If necessary, aim to make reasonable adjustments for employees moving through difficult periods. Perhaps you can offer them greater flexibility in their working hours, allow them to work from home on certain days, or adjust their workload to something be more manageable.
Information is key, so it’s important that senior managers and directors are educated on issues surrounding mental health in order to combat negative attitudes and allow the workplace to be open in its dialogues. Specialised training is available, while HR and leadership teams can also help with furthering understanding of these issues.
Your environment should be one where employees aren’t afraid to fail. If failure is met with reprisal then they’ll associate their failures with fear, creating an atmosphere of tension and stress. This can affect people in different ways but be mindful of those who are susceptible and vulnerable to negative patterns of thinking. Making mistakes isn’t something to shy away from, but rather, a means of allowing employees to learn and progress.
Strengthening a company takes time, but fostering an environment where people can feel comfortable is well worth the effort put into it.
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