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How HR Consultants Can Help Support Employee Wellbeing



Photo: JESHOOTS // Unsplash


Q: When in your life have you felt the most happy, balanced, and focused? 


A: When there’s pie, of course!


At ASOHR, we know that laughter can be great medicine! 


But we’re here to help leaders and their teams when it comes to serious stuff, too. 


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and mental health issues are something that ALL of us must deal with at some point in life. Whether we’re seeking support for ourselves, colleagues, or loved ones, mental health conversations should never be swept under the rug.


Mental health can encompass and affect many aspects of our work lives, including an individual’s physical energy levels, overall productivity, feelings about organizational changes, financial goals, and career mobility.   


According to 2022 data from Statistica, employees want more from their employers to support their mental health in the following categories: 


  • Work-life balance (47%)

  • Greater schedule flexibility (41%)

  • Workplace discussions about mental health (37%)

  • Training on topics like stress management (35%)


Moreover, over half of employees say their job is the biggest influence on mental health. According to one small study, it seems that managers can have as much influence on an employee’s mental health as a spouse/partner! (1) 


Try not to feel intimidated or upset if, as a manager, you discover that you or the organization is impacting a person’s mental health; and if you are feeling uneasy or overwhelmed, ask our HR consultants for help. 


How can managers better support their employees' mental health and well-being, as well as their own?


Managers are more aware of mental health issues than ever before, and employees are more willing to share information about mental health topics. While transparency around health and wellness in the workplace is crucial to employee wellness and engagement, it's also normal for leaders to feel pressure to "help" with things they can't (or shouldn't) be helping with.


Managers might be left wondering things like: 


How can I best support employees?


How much should I be stepping in to support employees?


How can I have tough conversations with employees while respecting their health and well-being needs? 


There’s no need for managers to spend all day in the office trying to “solve” people’s personal problems; but of course, they’ll be there to listen and help, especially with workplace-related challenges.


What makes things even harder for managers is that often employees forget that their bosses (or the people who appear to have their sh*t together) have stuff going on too!  


Our HR consultants are here to assist with policies, procedures, and programs that support healthier workplaces—here are a few examples:


  • Counseling, Therapy, and Coaching Resources - Did you know that there are programs that supplement the cost of 3rd party coaches and consultants? We have one client who pays a monthly stipend for a virtual therapist for his employees. Most of the client's employees have developed a personal relationship with her and feel comfortable reaching out when they need to. This removes the pressure from the manager, and removes the stigma around reaching out to talk to a professional. Plus it gives employees a much-needed, outlet to discuss anything (including work-related issues) with someone who is completely removed from office politics. I'd say this is a win-win-win!  


  • Resources to Support Physical Health - We all know that physical activity is good for our mental health, and gym membership discount programs can offer amazing benefits to employees. But when it comes to exercise, there are other options too. One great example is a company that does one-on-one meetings by taking laps around the office. At Slice, you might hear us ask to jump off a Zoom call and onto the phone so we can up our daily step count during the meeting! Some other ideas include standing desks and under-desk bikes.  


  • Work-Life-Balance Policies - Your HR consultant is there to help you set the tone of work in your culture and suggest adjustments to improve well-being where possible. This might mean assessing various factors and adjusting policies to help everyone work more efficiently and feel better. Some examples include workplace setting, working hours, meeting policies, and texts/emails during off-hours.     

  • Executive Coaching - Owning a company or managing a team can be lonely. Offering to pay the fees of a coaching and peer advisory group such as Vistage can offer comradery, support, and accountability. If you are interested, ask me to make an intro to my “Tribe!” 


  • OneDigital Wellness Hub - We are pleased to offer a Mobile Mental Health Hub to our monthly Human Resources Consulting Clients. Please reach out to your HR Consultant to inquire about access to this benefit that is included as a client of A Slice of HR/OneDigital! 



Photo: Marcel Straub // Unsplash


9 Tips for Nailing Those Tough Convos  


Of course, there are times when managers will need to address tough topics, such as meeting with employees about actual or potential transitions or organizational restructuring. 


Here are some tips to help you through tough conversations… and don’t forget to connect with a trusted HR consultant first for general guidance, and/or if you have a sense that an issue could be highly sensitive or legally contentious.  

 

Make Empathy Your Superpower


Be prepared to use empathetic language, tone, and non-verbal cues. 


All humans have both physiological and psychological needs, so you can start by tuning into what makes us human. As a manager, one of the greatest muscles you can exercise is empathy, driven by active listening, truly leaning in to understand another person’s experience.


When an individual feels heard and understood, they are more likely to feel connected.


Understand Active Listening 


Be fully present and make a point of practicing active listening skills day-to-day, so that when the time comes to have difficult conversations, you are ready. 


Ask (More) Questions 


HR's power does not come from having the right answers, but from asking the right questions. That’s what we’re doing when we do our job really well. 


I’d say the same is true for most leaders. Approaching each conversation with curiosity rather than judgment will lead to a much more constructive situation no matter what the topic. Try to ask more questions and offer more space as you listen. 


Avoid Judgment  


Bias and judgment are completely normal and human, especially when discussing a situation that we may feel we can’t relate to. But it’s completely possible to reserve judgment and stay neutral.  


Don’t Try to Play Therapist 


Yeah, I hear you… you probably feel like a therapist from time to time. But no matter how well-versed and empathetic you are, it’s important that you gather the information that you need without trying to “play” therapist or mediator. 


Leaders must be aware of the implications of stress, life challenges, and factors that can impact employees’ mental health.


But they also must be cautious to not assume the role of a therapist or clinician, who are professionals trained to support individuals with behavioral needs. Instead, there are ways that managers can engage with their employees to offer appropriate support and connect them to any additional care they may need. 


Provide a Safe Space


Ensure that you have a completely private (blinds down) and secure space to hold important conversations. In addition, be sure to notify employees exactly who will be in the meeting ahead of time.   


Remember to Pause


Some of us are uncomfortable with extended moments of silence, but offering space in the form of a pause offers the benefit of allowing both people to think and reflect before they speak.  


Take Time to Prepare and Reflect 


Before and after the meeting plan space for personal preparation and recovery so that you are able to regulate your own emotions appropriately. (We know you don’t have the time to journal for 20 minutes, but consider taking a few moments to do some deep breathing, which can help to calm your nervous system.)


Be As Direct as Possible


"Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind." ~ Brene Brown


Be prepared with fact-based information and direct feedback. Leaders who can validate concerns realistically but positively have the best chance of ensuring that the environment stays productive but positive.  


Managers Can (and Should) Take a Break


As a manager, it’s important to step back and understand which questions to ask your team and others who can offer guidance and support. Our HR consultants are here to provide policies and procedures that help set a tone of wellness in all forms. We're here to help you build safer, healthier workplaces so your staff can thrive.


Do you have a dedicated HR team to support your organization with health, wealth, and success? Let's get started.


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References 


  1. Workforce Institute at UKG. (2024). Mental Heatlh at Work: Managers and Money. Retrieved May 14, 2024. https://www.ukg.com/resources/white-paper/mental-health-work-managers-and-money

  2. One Digital. A Leader’s Guide to Mental Health.  https://view.onedigital.com/leadershipresourceguide#page=1



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