You know the warning signs, but what comes next? How do you bring about real change in the workplace? For any lasting change to occur, it must come from the top down, meaning it begins with leadership. Leaders at the top-level can take care of their team and encourage those they direct to in turn take care of their teams and so on. Training material and resources should likewise be scaled downward.

While this likely makes sense logically, what are actual, concrete ways leadership can offer care and support to their team members?

Creating a Supportive Environment

Leaders can develop a workplace culture that prioritizes mental wellness. Here are four easy ways to create a more supportive environment:

#1 Talk the Talk: Encourage open dialogue about mental wellness and do not be afraid to lead by example. When senior leaders openly discuss mental health and share personal experiences, this not only combats stigma and shame, but also normalizes conversations about mental well-being, which in turn encourages others to speak up.

#2 Walk the Walk: Sharing personal experiences is a great start, but you still need to lead by example. Do not just say you support mental wellness – show it! When you have a clear separation between work and personal hours, prioritize self-care, and unplug during vacation time (yes, actually unplug during vacation) then your team members feel they can too.

#3 Spread the Love: Offer training for managers and employees on mental wellness awareness, including signs of distress and how to offer support. Employees may feel more comfortable discussing struggles or challenges with peers rather than managers. When all employees are trained and armed with “mental first aid kits,” they can more confidently recognize warning signs, intervene and even save lives.

#4 Make it Known: Providing access to mental wellness resources like counseling services, employee assistance programs, or support groups is extremely beneficial to leaders and employees alike, but be sure they know about them. Studies have found that less than 50% of U.S. workers are aware their employers’ mental health services exist.

How to Approach a Colleague

When we suspect a colleague or employee is struggling with mental wellness issues, we may feel scared that we will say the wrong thing or feel intrusive like it is none of our business. But if something is truly wrong, it is so much better to be safe than sorry. At worst, you offend someone, but more likely you gain a grateful friend.

Just do it.

Here are some suggestions to make the outreach as smooth as possible:

    • Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a private and low key setting like an office or conference room to have a conversation. Going for a walk and talking creates a less confrontational environment compared to face-to-face conversations. When individuals feel more relaxed and open, smoother and more natural conversations occur.
    • Listen Actively: Allow your colleague to share personal feelings and experiences without interruption. Don’t worry about thinking of a response, just listen.
    • Offer Unconditional Support: Share information about mental wellness services offered through the company and how to access them confidentially. Offer to accompany your colleague to appointments (as appropriate) or provide support in navigating the process.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, mental wellness issues require professional intervention. Encourage colleagues to seek help from mental health professionals if needed. Construction Safety Week provides self-screening tools, crisis resources, helplines and additional support resources to start the healing process.

Identifying and addressing mental wellness issues in the workplace requires a collective effort from both employees and employers, but it begins with leadership. By fostering a supportive and empathetic environment, we can empower individuals to seek help and receive the support they need.

Tyfoom connects mental wellness with safety by providing trainings and resources to employees, reducing stigma and promoting a healthier, more productive workplace. To learn more, schedule a meeting to speak with a Tyfoom training consultant.