Chief People Officers share their top tips for mental health on R U OK Day

- September 9, 2021 3 MIN READ
ru ok day mental health

With so many employees working remotely, it can be difficult to gauge how your team members are doing. We checked in with a couple of the nation’s chief people officers to see how businesses can ensure their staff are cared for during lockdown.

Try these tips to look after your employees mental health

Remove stigma around mental health

“Lead from the front. Have your CEO and leaders speak to the importance of taking care of your mental health during lockdown. Remove the stigma. Have your CEO do this at your business ‘all-hands’, through a company video. Acknowledge everyone’s circumstances are different and this lockdown is not easy for anyone,” says Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at Employment Hero.

“Have an Employee Assistance Program to refer your employees to. If you don’t have one, provide access to free resources.

Check-in with each other

Hattingh also suggests sending out a wellbeing survey to check-in on your employees.

“See what support they need. If you don’t have the budget for what they may be asking for, acknowledge that. Let your employees know.

“Make sure your managers are asking their employees each week, during their 1-1s, how they are really doing and coping. If you have the budget, a care package is appreciated, or even a hand-written card.

“At your All-Hands, give your employees tips for coping: exercise, talk to someone, stay connected to your loved ones, use your usual commute time to do something that is meaningful to you, like a walk or some quality time with your kids.”

Reward your employees

“Up your reward and recognition program, “adds Hattingh.  “This doesn’t have to cost you money. For example, through our platform, Employment Hero, we have shoutouts where you can thank a team member and everyone receives the notification. Increasing usage of this has really made people feel appreciated.”

Hattingh says addressing mental health is especially important during lockdown.

“Mental health impacts people deeply. You want your employees to be coping or they won’t be engaged or performing at their best. Your employees will also remember when this is all over how you treated them. Friends and family talk too. Hearing that other companies are taking care of their people if your company is not, highlights this as an issue of not putting your people first.”

Encourage people to clock off

She says employers should be mindful of burnout as staff juggle work and family commitments.

“Juggling homeschooling, working from your bedroom all day because you don’t live alone, feeling like you have to be online for long hours, all of these realities contribute to burnout,” says  Hattingh.

“You have to allow your employees to feel okay telling you they are burnt out, tired, overwhelmed, or at risk of burnout.”

Hattingh says it’s important for managers to remind people to log-off working from home doesn’t mean people need to be available 24/7.

“Notice if team members are online late and check-in with them. Recognise your people. We end each of our weekly All-Hands with Shoutouts where our people thank others for their amazing work that week.”

Walk the talk

Graham Moody is Chief People Officer at global recruitment software solution JobAdder says when anxiety is high, it’s important for businesses to “walk the talk”  about how much they value and care for the people in their team.

“Even if there is pressure to perform in the business, it’s crucial that leaders make workplaces a safe place to talk about and prioritise mental health. Leaders have a big role to play and by demonstrating vulnerability and sharing their own mental health stories, it can help build deeper trust, connection and all round psychological safety so that people feel OK to ask for help.

“It’s also a good idea to encourage managers and workers to regularly check-in on how people are feeling, especially while working remotely. It’s important to take that extra step to get past the default response of ‘yeah, I’m OK’.”

Make mental health a priority

Moody says while mental health should never be on the backburner, the pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront.

“For this reason alone, now is not the time to ignore and carry on as normal. If your team is struggling, piling the pressure on is going to lead to burnout and turnover, adding further pressure to the business and other teammates.

“These are highly unusual times with isolation, homeschooling, risk of job losses and fear of the virus, so we need to recognise that people are in survival mode, not top performance mode. Even in the best of times, putting mental wellbeing as a priority is an opportunity to optimise the environment in which people can give their best on a more consistent basis.

“In the same way top athletes work on their mental health as much as their physical health, all workplaces should be looking at practicing the same ethos to help their people thrive, Moody concludes.

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