We say hello to mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation, "mental health problems have become the leading cause of work absenteeism and early retirement across Europe" and poor mental health in the workplace has serious consequences for the individual, the company and society. In 2019, the Burnout was considered an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organisation, which defines it as a syndrome resulting from chronic occupational stress with three dimensions: (a) exhaustion and reduced energy levels, (b) negative feelings or even cynicism related to the job or function, and (c) reduced professional effectiveness.
That it's a serious subject, we already know. What we don't all know is how not to exceed reasonable limits when it comes to our mental health. Rest is, in its various dimensions, a privileged space for the recovery of the person as a whole (see article "Rest between Holidays"), and if these moments are not sufficient in volume or quality, we are in a critical space for our productivity, for our well-being and for our health.
This is where organisations can and should actively contribute. A simple way to try to do so is to accompany the different types of respite with adjusted management practices. But it is important here to leave a disclaimer: no welfare initiatives are enough for the mental health of your people. It's not enough. If you still have doubts... click on the video below of Ali Woods on the "trendy" social network:
The tendency may be to assume that a few wellbeing initiatives are enough - between fruit in the office, the massage day, a few partnerships with gyms and accessible psychotherapy. Other ideas arise and, to increase awareness on the subject, workshops and training on mental health are created, burnout and/or stress management. All these initiatives are important and have their place in contributing to an improvement in employees' perception of well-being. But just as culture is not based on "pizza parties", mental health doesn't just survive on fruit and workshops either. Don't get me wrong - we too have taken this more accessible route, which does a lot to raise awareness about mental health and its effects (recall the mental health week at Wellow™ Group in October 2021).
But we know that from awareness The market is full of mental health issues and it is not enough. It is important to go further, to the root cause(s) of what causes the imbalance in cognitive or emotional quality of life and support its mitigation or resolution. A 2021 study by Gallup (available here) mentions 5 main causes of burnout - unfair treatment in the workplace, workload unmanageable, unclear communication from leadership, lack of support from leadership and time pressure to do their job - and, amazingly, none of it even begins to be solved with wellness practices. We need to be serious in our approach to the subject, equivalent to the degree of seriousness the subject deserves!
At Wellow™ Group, we live this theme very closely and in the last year, we have sought to act on 3 dimensions that, we believe, are the most structuring of the true well-being of our teams:
Leadership at the service (of mental health) of teams
There are numerous examples of people management buzzwords that refer to the impact (positive or negative) of leadership on the well-being of people in organisations. Simon Sinek says that "the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own" At Leaders eat Last and in the mental health of our teams, our role is fundamental. Being clear in our message, knowing the people we work with and what motivates or discourages them, knowing how to recognise their merits and how to help them overcome their weaknesses are essential requirements in the functional description of a leader. Similarly, identifying and acting upon signs of tiredness, apathy or even lack of commitment are imperative if we are to protect our team and its performance!
Data is everything
"Without data, you're just a person with an opinion" might be the idea of W. Edwards Demming that I most appreciate and that applies to most people and talent management challenges. In the case of mental health, a topic so often devalued because it is more subjective and not very tangible, it is even more relevant. The good news is that the information is probably already collected and available to be analysed! Studies on organisational climate, performance evaluation, structured feedbacks and other tools they use can be retrieved or improved to include important parameters for monitoring aspects such as working conditions, overload, functional design, relationships with peers and leadership, among others. Based on the information collected, implementation plans should include actions aimed at the mental health of teams.
Demanding + Autonomy = Accountability
The pressure to do more and better accompanies many organisations in an increasingly connected and constantly evolving market. This pressure can be a driver of innovation, development and value creation, but when excessive at the source or perceived as such by the person, it brings catastrophic results. One way to minimise this negative impact is a practice based on accountability or accountability. Thus, the demand and rigour necessary for the performance of a certain function go hand in hand with autonomy and competence to respond to the proposed challenge, with teams feeling able to take responsibility for the project, task or decision. For this, the organisation needs clear and well-designed functional descriptions, training and development plans tailored to real needs, monitoring methodologies based on observable facts and a culture of feedback/feedforward rooted that does not feed the extremes of the equation. After all, too much autonomy without demand or too much demand without autonomy are dysfunctional scenarios in which nobody wins. In the balance of the coin lies the perfect stress zone, which allows us to evolve without exhausting our performance or making us doubt what we are capable of delivering.
In short, the mental health of each of us is, in the first instance, in our own hands. The challenge left to companies is to act consistently on these practices and to take seriously the commitment to do better by their people!