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Practical steps to wellbeing in your team

Many organisations do not have the resources for large well-being initiatives. What can you do, as a manager, to ensure the well-being of your team?
Four team members crowd around a colleague's laptop

Health and wellbeing play a hugely important role in the success of any organisation. It is often the line manager that has the biggest impact on employee wellbeing.

Yet many organisations do not have the resources available for extensive wellbeing initiatives. So what can you do, as a manager, to ensure the wellbeing of your team?

1. Conversations

One of the easiest things that you can do as a manager is simply to make time to talk about wellbeing. Having regular, informal conversations with your team about how they’re doing, both in work and outside of work, will help to foster a positive environment. Employees will be more comfortable in discussing their wellbeing openly and frankly.

It is usually quite easy to see when someone is doing well. But it can be more difficult to identify when an employee is struggling or in need of greater support. Ensure you make time to have these conversations. Not only will this encourage employees to make connections and share their successes but also crucially, not to be afraid to ask for support if they need it.

It is also important to be aware that management style is one of the leading factors contributing to employee stress. Consider how your style of management is affecting your team and be mindful of the stress in their role, and outside of work. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about what’s working well or how you might be able to provide better support.

2. Work-life balance

Workload is one of the biggest causes of stress in the workplace. Consider the workload of each of your team. Do they have too much to do? Do they have too little? Both of these situations can negatively affect wellbeing and motivation, particularly if employees are often having to work late to complete their work. If workloads are having a negative impact on your team, consider where changes you can make to reduce stress and improve work-life balance.

Consider whether there are options for working more flexibly within your team. Many roles demand being at work during specific hours, or need specific technology or equipment. In these instances, options like working-from-home may not be practical. However, even small changes can make a positive difference to employees. Being able arrive early and then leave early, for instance may help employees with family commitments like the daily school run.

Make sure you encourage your employees to take a break from their desks every so often. Doing so can improve productivity and help mental, visual and postural fatigue. For example, try leaving your desk for your next meeting. Have your one-to-one discussion while taking a walk around the block. See if the fresh air and activity change the dynamic of the conversation. Or arrange your next team meeting off-site. What changes do you notice about the conversations when you are not surrounded by the office environment?

3. Setting an example

One of the most important things you can do as a manager to support the wellbeing of your employees is to set a good example. Employees will be guided by your behaviour and may believe that what you do will be expected of them.

Try not to email after hours. If you request things from employees outside their normal working hours, they may feel pressure to respond or action items from home. This interrupts their work-life balance and may contribute to feelings of stress as they’re always ‘switched on’.

Make sure you take your annual leave. Organisations can easily develop a culture where staff do not take their holidays. This may be because workloads are too great but it may also be because staff feel they should not take leave. By taking your own leave entitlement and encouraging your employees to take theirs, you are ensuring that your team are well rested throughout the year and able to perform at their best.

Be aware of presenteeism. Employees may feel they should come into work no matter what. However, if an employee is unwell they are unlikely to be productive and may make more mistakes. They can make others unwell, and it will take longer for them to get better because they are not resting. By being self-aware and taking time off when you need it to recover you will set a good example for the rest of your team.

4. Mental health

Stress and anxiety are the leading causes of work absence in North America, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. And yet mental health is still a topic organisations find difficult to discuss. Many people are not comfortable speaking about it for fear it may harm their career opportunities.

As a manager it is important to understand the stigma that surrounds mental health. You should seek to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking about mental health or disclosing issues they may have. Having regular, open conversations is one way of developing such an environment. It can be as little as saying ‘how are you?’ each morning or making time for regular catch-up conversations.

Be mindful of changes in your team and be aware of the early signs of mental ill-health. These could be physical (such as fatigue, appetite or weight changes, joint or back pain), psychological (including loss of motivation, tearfulness, lapses in memory) or behavioural (for example, withdrawal, increase in smoking or drinking, inconsistent performance).

If you observe signs of change that cause you concern, be careful not to make assumptions but to talk to your team member directly. While changes in behaviour may indicate a mental health issue, they could be related to another issue entirely. Having an open conversation will allow you to discuss the matter and agree on the best support you can provide.

5. What support is available?

One of the best things you can do to support your employees’ wellbeing is know what what support Is available through your organisation and its policies. For example:

  • What is your flexible working policy?
  • Do you provide any discounted gym membership?
  • Do you have an employee support telephone service?
  • What support can you provide for employees returning to work after a sickness absence?

Being able to supply your employees with information about what they are entitled to and where they can find help within the organisation is an important part of your role as a manager.

Beyond the organisation, it is also useful to know what other services, charities and organisations exist to help individuals with different aspects of their mental and physical wellbeing. For example, in the UK the charity Mind has many resources for helping people understand and address mental health issues.

As a manager, it is useful to consider the following questions:

1. What can I do to support my employee?
2. What support can my organisation provide through its policies?
3. Where can the employee seek support outside of the organisation?
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