Various factors drive organisational performance – many of which stem from employee experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent ramifications warrant a closer look at one significant aspect of employee experiences – mental health.
While stress has always existed within a workplace, a VUCA episode like the pandemic significantly worsens the situation. VUCA events usually result in a series of unprecedented stressors that may put workers in a constant state of unease that compromises their concentration and overall performance.
Organisational leaders can mitigate the toll on mental health by implementing a set of highly accessible initiatives that provide workers with the support they need to feel safe and engaged.
Empathetic leaders understand that there is no surefire solution for mental health at the workplace. Every individual possesses a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs that deserve respect at all times. Some employees may be easy to read like an open book, while others require closer monitoring.
Leaders need to develop the ability to detect the subtle nuances in employee behaviour and intervene before things get beyond control.
For example, if a usually spontaneous employee begins to show signs of detachment, it might be time to initiate a heart-to-heart conversation. Employers should find out the cause of sudden behavioural changes and help provide solutions or assurance where possible. The pandemic led to large-scale pay cuts and lay-offs, and employees may be on edge over job security and stability.
Become an Effective Communicator
Leaders have the power to prevent many mental/stress issues through clear and non-judgmental communication. Through consistently supportive and positive language, employers can eliminate the risks of miscommunication and foster solidarity among teams.
The common traits of effective communicators include active listening, paying attention to employee’s needs and opinions without constantly cutting them off (prioritise their perspectives), and leaving nonverbal cues that cultivate a positive work environment.
The Soundwave workshop trains individuals and teams to identify various communication modes and discover the means of using the right voice at the right time. At times, the way a person conveys a message may differ from the original intention, leading to preventable conflict. Soundwave creates a deeper awareness to assess and rectify these errors, which improves relationships and team dynamics.
Reassure Them: They Are Not Alone
Perhaps the most effective strategy against stress at the workplace involves reassuring that employers and employees are in the battle together. As symbolised in the earliest wars, the general always leads the charge in full force to rally the troops. VUCA scenarios like the pandemic are modern wars against an invisible enemy, where workers deserve a similar morale boost.
When possible, leaders should arrange for casual meetings that put the minds of every employee at ease. Aside from discussing strategy, decision-makers should provide a positive (but realistic) outlook on short-term and long-term goals and involve every participant in the conversation.
According to Oracle, “76% of people believe that their employer should be doing more to protect their mental health”. The Mental Health Foundation reports that 1 in 6.8 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace.
Although stress is unavoidable in a results-driven workplace, organisational leaders have the power to mitigate its impact and keep workers primed for success across all seasons.
StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.