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'Supportive and empowered leaders crucial to enabling safe mental health conversations in the workplace'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Mental Health Awareness Week (27 September - 3 October) is an important opportunity to keep driving forward, both conversations and actions that are focused on improving mental health and workplace wellbeing, according to Randstad’s Country Director, Katherine Swan.

OECD findings indicate that poor mental health costs the New Zealand economy some 4-5% of GDP every year through lost labour productivity, increased health care expenditure and social spending on people temporarily or permanently out of work.

In today’s modern way of working, people are required to be productive in a boundaryless working environment, where they’re hyperconnected with less opportunity to switch off. Swan says the mass move to work from home has increased the visibility of the personal commitments, pressures, and stresses that people manage outside of work, not always obvious in office-based environments.

Katherine comments, "Leaders need to focus on being more mindfully supportive. We should use this time to learn more about the people we work with and consider how we can create workplaces that allow them to bring their best selves to work, while also meeting personal commitments. Leaders need to be empowered to act as facilitators, be good listeners, and have respectful conversations without feeling they have to be mental health and wellbeing experts."

Increasingly, employees want to work for organisations that have a strong workplace culture and commitment to workplace wellbeing. "From personal experience, I’ve seen how considering the broader spectrum of health, ensuring regular and clear communication, empowering leaders from the C-suite down, and bringing people together on different platforms to share and collaborate, will empower internal relationships, and create a strong team environment for greater business success," Katherine explains.

Randstad New Zealand’s own culture and wellbeing initiatives are delivered by its Randstad with Heart Committee. Run by employees, it organises activities that encourage positive human connection while also managing its community volunteer programmes. This year, activities in support of Mental Health Awareness Week includes meditation sessions, online fitness classes, virtual team member coffee catch ups and the opportunity to attend a mindfulness webinar series run by GROW NZ.

Randstad also recently welcomed psychologist and workplace mental health expert Adrianna Loveday back, as Director of Talent Transformation. Responsible for helping companies improve their workplace culture and mental resilience, Adrianna believes that the cost of ignoring mental health issues in the workplace is far greater than the cost of implementing strategies that create safe and healthy workplaces.

Adrianna comments, "It’s vital to remind ourselves that when it comes to the mental health crisis, we’re not facing anything new. The difference now is that the pandemic has made it impossible to ignore. The onset of COVID-19 has not only highlighted the importance of mental health in the workplace, but compelled leaders to place the wellbeing of their employees significantly further up the organisational agenda."

Below are Randstad’s actionable steps for improving workplace wellbeing and employee resilience:

De-mystify mental health

Organisations need to make the conversation around mental health both palatable and relevant for their workers. Organisations need to dedicate time and energy to identify the symptoms of mental health conditions, understanding the critical challenges that their workers face, and the psychological health and wellbeing of those people because of those challenges.

Avoid the ‘too-hard basket’

When something is difficult to manage, it's easy to avoid it entirely and instead place it into the ‘too-hard basket’ where it’ll likely stay forever. Mental health, no matter how difficult the conversation or task, needs to be worked through by taking simple but proactive steps, guided by expert advice.

Have open conversations that instil trust and confidence to act

Organisations need to have an open conversation around workplace mental health, and to ensure the solutions to overcome any challenges are easily manageable. The key is having the confidence to intervene early, and then putting great leadership and expert guidance in place to ensure those facing mental health challenges are wholly supported.

Randstad Country Director, Katherine Swan concludes, "Achieving workplaces that are more mentally resilient is an ongoing journey. It's about continuing to grow in this space as leaders and becoming more aware of the challenges our employees face to best assist them. A conversation can go a long way to enabling the best outcomes."

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