Thanks to our friends at Xero
If you were working in 2020, we hazard a guess that you found it more demanding than ever before. When we feel the need to be ‘on’ and in a reactive mode around the clock, it can be hard to invest the time to look after our wellbeing. Studies tell us that in the last year, 1 in 5 people have had to take time off because they feel stressed, anxious and not able to cope. All of which means that fostering a mentally healthy working environment isn’t only important for yourself and your people; it’s crucial to the success of your business.
2021 can be different. Our friend Rebecca Gravestock, Director of People and Performance Australia and Asia for online accounting software platform Xero, shared ways you create a working environment where your people feel safe, supported and enabled to do their best – whether they’re at home or in the office.
Create awareness about mental health
Wellbeing is not static, and it’s not as binary as simply being ‘well’. It ranges across a continuum, and our levels of wellbeing naturally ebb and flow as we experience the ups and downs of life. As Bec told us, “we all wear an invisible backpack, and you don’t know how heavy or light someone’s is.”
Tip: Consider implementing a traffic light system so your team can share how they’re feeling – moving from green (flourishing), to amber (surviving), to red (struggling).
Leaders have to put their oxygen mask on first
Bec reminded us that we’ve got to look after ourselves first. “If we don’t think about our own wellbeing and practice self-care for ourselves, we can’t support those around us. When we talk about self-care, it’s about taking the time to do something for yourself that really grounds you and gives you a sense of calm and focus. It’s not just about meditating or doing a yoga class.”
Tip: Consider flexible working hours, eating well, getting more sleep, a digital detox, socialising or meeting with a business coach as ways of practicing self-care.
Change the perception of wellness
Leaders set the tone and can build trust by creating an environment where people feel safe. By showing that it’s okay to be vulnerable and removing the stigma around mental wellbeing, the culture of a company can shift. Bec shared an example from Xero that’s made a big impact on reducing the stigma of taking care of your mental health. By changing the name of sick and carers leave to wellbeing leave, they saw an increase in the number of people looking after themselves globally. “Not only is it okay, we encourage people to take time off for their mental wellbeing.”
Tip: Give your team an additional day of paid leave to focus on their wellbeing. Encourage your team to share the ways they invested in themselves and celebrate it internally.
Bring your whole self to work
You want to create an environment where people feel that they can be themselves. Work tends to take up a lot of our energy, and if you’re trying to put on a façade on top of that, your energy will be depleted further, and productivity reduced.
Tip: Get to know your people on a personal level. Encourage everyone to open up about what makes them tick outside of work, like their hobbies, pets and families.
Build the capability to support one another
While it’s fantastic to encourage your people to open up about their mental wellbeing, the experience can be soured if their honesty falls on deaf ears and a lack of action and support. “It’s not about being a counsellor or knowing exactly what to say,” Bec said. “It’s about being there for support, and directing them on how to find more hands-on help if needed.”
Tip: Train your team leaders on the mental health warning signs to look out for and share the professional resources they can refer their people to.
Manage remote working
For a lot of companies, remote working is sticking around. And while there are lots of positives including flexibility and a reduction of travel time, remote teams can feel a lack of clarity and certainty and feel lonelier than when they were sharing an office. To counter this, it’s important to be flexible and manage scenarios at an individual level. Where possible, enable people to work in a way that suits them best while balancing their own needs and responsibilities. Be realistic; distractions are unavoidable. Acknowledge that productivity may dip and, on the flipside, watch out for people over-working as they struggle to preserve healthy boundaries.
Tip: Be an anchor by maintaining routines and rituals. Where possible, try to keep your team’s routines in places. Create new virtual routines around meetings, social catch ups and team celebrations. These provide structure and boost our sense of belonging and connection.
Know where to turn for professional support
If you’re reading this, we’re guessing that you’re probably not a professional counsellor. And you don’t have to be. There are a bunch of incredible organisations you can turn to for advice and support for your own, or someone else’s wellbeing. Bec recommended:
While you can’t change the weight of someone’s backpack, you can create a supportive environment where they feel safe to talk to someone about it.
Check out our small business hub for more info on mastering the ins and outs of small business life – now, and into the future.
This helpful content was brought to you in partnership with our pals at Xero. Whether you lead a small team or are going at it alone, you’ll find the support you need on Xero’s dedicated resource page – complete with free tools and guides to help you run your business smoothly. Online accounting software that’s designed to let you do business beautifully and simply, nab a free 30-day trial over at xero.com.