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‘Care can be the most impactful resource an employee can have’

22 Nov 2019

Dr Reetu Sandhu of the Limeade Institute wants employers to realise the importance of caring about employee mental health.

Looking after your mental health is something that applies to everyone, and any problems you might be dealing with dont simply disappear when you clock into work each morning. So, its imperative that people feel that they can be open about their mental wellbeing in the office, and to facilitate that, managers must be correctly prepared.

Dr Reetu Sandhu is a manager at US-based employee engagement software company the Limeade Institute, where she drives innovative thinking and best practices around engagement, wellbeing and inclusion in the workplace. We caught up with her to find out why mental health awareness at work is so crucial, and how companies can be certain that theyre moving in the right direction.

‘Authentically showing employees that they are cared for on a day-to-day basis is critical’

How can managers recognise signs that their employees might be living with mental health issues?

In order to recognise signs that employees may be struggling with mental health issues, managers must first have a trusting relationship baseline developed with employees. Trust allows for managers and employees to have genuine conversations about how they are doing, including their mental health, and what they might be experiencing at work that is impacting them.

It’s also important for managers to understand mental health and the nuances that surround it. This includes educating themselves on how mental health issues manifest and impact employees, how to create a psychologically safe environment that enables genuine conversations, and how to be thoughtful and respectful of employees while they support them in their mental health journey.

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Dr Reetu Sandhu. Image: Limeade Institute

What resources can and should HR offer to aid employees?

HR should empower managers with resources that enable them to learn and take action – and to improve and maintain their own wellbeing as well as helping others do the same. This learning portion should include education and awareness components – how to live with mental health, how to talk about it and how to address it.

Coupled with a learning element, HR leaders should also provide managers with an action component. This can include a myriad of activities that employees can turn to, wherever they may be in their mental health journey. Employees should also know who, and where, they can turn to if they ever have any questions or concerns regarding mental health issues.

In addition to all these things, authentically showing employees that they are cared for on a day-to-day basis is critical to creating an environment where employees have the support they need to take care of themselves and their overall wellbeing. 

While care may not always be thought of as a typical resource, our research shows that when employees feel cared for, they are 94pc more likely to have wellbeing in their life compared to 52pc of those who don’t feel cared for, and 50pc more likely to say their stress is manageable compared to 14pc of those who don’t feel cared for. Care can be the most impactful resource an employee can have. 

How can companies best offer support to their employees?

One way of showing employees care is to create a two-way dialogue. This primarily starts with managers. Ask employees, ‘how are you doing?’ and genuinely mean it. 

With this, take the time to intentionally create an environment where employees feel safe and secure. If employees feel there is a safe space for them to be vulnerable, they are more likely to do so.

In addition to this, HR leaders should be surveying employees and utilising those insights to inform actions. 

Do you have any specific words of advice for companies hoping to become more supportive, or for employees living with mental health issues?

For companies hoping to become more supportive of staff with mental health problems, I would advise them to authentically care for their employees by investing in their relationships. Focus on building trust, being authentic and genuinely taking interest in employees’ whole-person wellbeing.

For employees living with mental health issues, remember that mental health is a core part of who we are. Take advantage of any resources that might be available through your company or ask for them. 

Although it might be daunting at first, informing your manager about your mental health journey can help them know how to better support you. This can also encourage others to do the same for themselves.

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