How to support mental wellbeing on your team

People everywhere are tired, stressed, and adjusting to the new normal as best they can.

Koa Health
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Mental health support can make a big difference in how the people on your team handle stress and build resilience during these difficult times.

For employers, it can be hard to decide on the best approach to providing employees with the support they need. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t made this any easier, as companies struggle to take care of their staff amid uncertainty and rapidly evolving circumstances.

Add to that the challenge of helping a suddenly remote workforce manage stress and work-life balance, and it’s easy to see why many organisations are scrambling to find ways to protect their people’s wellbeing. Because no matter where they do their work, employees’ mental health matters.

When people’s mental wellbeing is harmed (by worries, unhelpful thoughts, stress, or globe-spanning changes brought on by a virus), it damages all aspects of their lives, including their ability to do their jobs. Especially now, when understandable worries about the state of the world are accompanied by concerns about child-care, at-risk relatives, and the loneliness of working from home.

What can companies like yours, who care, do? You can commit to promoting behaviours and habits that support mental wellbeing in your workplace. Because as an employer, a manager, or a team lead, you can make a real impact on how your staff perceives work-life balance (and play an integral part in them achieving it, too).

two women working together on a laptop

How can I support mental wellbeing on my team?

One of the most important things you can do beyond implementing policies and best practices to protect your team’s mental wellbeing is 'show, don’t tell'.

Whether you’re trying to convince your employees to take more breaks or use a new mental wellbeing tool, visibly participating is likely to make a real difference when it comes to the desired behaviours being adopted.

Read on for 3 key ways to make a difference, right away.

1. Communicate (your appreciation).

Whether your team is fully remote or supporting the public as they do essential work, during times like the present, communication has become more critical than ever. A key piece of this communication is taking extra time and care to show your appreciation for the work your team does

Research shows that not only does feeling appreciated lead to better overall health, lower stress, and fewer sick days, it’s also linked to increased productivity. A study by Glassdoor showed that 81% of employees feel motivated to work harder when their bosses show appreciation.

It’s also crucial to communicate with your team about mental wellbeing regularly. Unsure as to whether talking about mental wellbeing will help? Showing your team you care by addressing mental wellbeing at work may increase productivity by up to 12%.

Talking about mental wellbeing at work is challenging for many employees (and their employers), but you can make it easier by creating a safe space for them to share in. Need more advice on how to do it? See our blog post on Talking about mental health at work for further guidance.

2. Make sure your team has mental health support they’ll actually use.

That means whatever you offer has to be effective and easy to access, regardless of where they are (or when they find the time) and provide a wide enough range of services, methods and capabilities to be useful to people across your entire organisation.

Despite all the bad press devices get, research shows that technology can be used to boost wellbeing. In fact, in a large-scale randomised control study conducted in Europe in 2019, researchers found that mobile health interventions (aka apps) significantly improved stress and wellbeing over time.

But for any tools you provide to have a lasting impact, you’ll need to spread the word, first. You’ll want to share news about the resources available with employees on a regular basis and encourage them to try them out. To ensure everyone’s in the know, you may want to send out an email or share communications that include any mental health benefits available to your employees once a quarter, or at minimum yearly and as part of the onboarding process for new hires.

3. Normalise breaks and time off.

Studies show that time away from work (to recover, destress and rest) is an integral part of balanced mental wellbeing. So even if it’s hard to do without critical members of your staff, encourage your team to take time off and max out their annual leave whenever possible.

Another important way to help your team prioritise mental wellbeing? Take your breaks and make it clear that you expect your team to take theirs, too. Discourage working through meals in front of a computer. In a survey by Tork cited in Forbes, 90% of workers said that taking a lunch break helps them feel ‘refreshed’ and ready to return to work.

Shorter breaks throughout the day matter, too. While ideally, research indicates your team should make time for a 15-minute break after 90 minutes of work, even micro-breaks as short as a few seconds have been demonstrated to do the trick provided there’s a total distraction. Doing a complicated equation in your head, or spending a minute playing a game like Koa Foundation’s Echo are two simple ways to give your mind a much-needed rest from whatever it is you've been doing.

The point here is, normalising disconnecting (whether for longer stretches on paid leave) or short minutes-long windows throughout the workday is good for productivity, focus, and creativity—something to keep in mind when you (or someone on your team) is tempted to skip a break.

Want to find out more about how mental health impacts the employee experience and what you can do about it? Download our white paper, Mental health and the employee experience: The business case.

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Koa Health

The Team @ Koa Health

Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.