How leadership can change workplace mental health culture

By Silvana Vogiatzakis

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Mental health is a silent issue in many workplaces. We all know how to be empathetic about a visible injury, however people aren’t often sure how to deal with mental health, or how to support it.

Of course, it isn’t realistic to sufficiently address every single mental health need we can think of. What every company can do, however, is foster an open and safe environment where those with mental health concerns are not judged or disadvantaged. We need to focus on what we can do not on what we can’t.

By creating clear support structures, those who need help will feel more comfortable speaking up and asking for the assistance. It’s a culture that starts from the top, and as a leader, there’s a lot you can do to encourage it.

Creating a psychologically safe environment

As a starting point, companies must invest in Leaders who understand mental health and receive workplace tailored mental health training. This establishes go-to people in the business who are trained with some basics and can identify those in distress.

Open and safe communication channels should also be always available. As a leader myself, I want our teams at APM to feel safe bringing up any issue at any time, without judgement. This includes having regular one-on-one sessions with everyone to check in on how they are doing.

At APM, we also run regular feedback surveys for employees, which get filtered back to both me and upper management. I collate the feedback every quarter – sooner if it’s urgent. Further to this, we run strategic planning sessions with the team to work on team identity and do SWOT analyses to measure our progress.

How I encourage wellbeing in my own team

Mental health advocacy and a positive culture around this starts with a company’s leaders. My approach is to serve our team, rather than just direct it. Each person has different needs and personalities, and I recognise it is up to me to identify this and adjust my leadership style accordingly.

Promoting team engagement is also key. Engaged team members look out for one another and step up to help each other in times of crisis. I see my team members support each other every day! I also do a review with my team every year about what makes them happy at work and what they’d like to focus on together. We then map these goals out over the coming year.

I am proud to say that the mental health culture within APM WorkCare WA is overwhelmingly positive. I believe that APM overall cultivates an open dialogue that enables employees to talk honestly. And that is where a positive mental health culture starts. Listen, learn, adapt and review: this is what we do very well.

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Published on Aug 16, 2021

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