Demonstrate leadership commitment to workplace mental health in your medium or large business

Learn about supporting your leaders to demonstrate their commitment to creating a mentally healthy workplace.

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Overview

How this helps your business

When senior leaders communicate and show their commitment to creating a mentally healthy workplace and act as positive role models for change, there is a positive flow on effect to the workplace culture and staff in the organisation.

Senior leaders are responsible for setting the organisational vision and strategy and play a critical role in fostering the change process through their commitment to financial, human resources and systems required to successfully implement change.

Senior leaders are key to the success of this change. This page will help support senior leaders with the practical steps they can take to positively influence workplace culture and create a mentally healthy workplace.

Key stats and facts


$2.30  

is the average return on investment for every $1 invested in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

PwC PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, 2014


27%  

of employees think that lack of appropriate skills held by managers is a barrier to improving workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Superfriend, 2017


22%  

of employees think that lack of commitment at the very top of the organisation is a barrier to improving workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Superfriend, 2017

Step 1

Learn more on this topic

Mentally healthy workplaces are workplaces that people look forward to attending, are open to individual needs and are flexible and supportive of each other. Everyone has a role to play, both in looking after their own mental health and creating a mentally healthy workplace, however the development of such workplaces depends on leadership from the top.

The mental wellbeing of your employees can enhance personal and organisational resilience and success.

Watch the video below to understand the responsibility of businesses in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Step 2

Identify areas for improvement

Leaders are in the strongest position to communicate, drive and influence positive change across the organisation and there are many ways in which they can show their commitment to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

In this step take the time to review your strategy and what your leaders are doing to get a full picture and understanding of the commitment to change. Collaborate, talk to your leaders directly, talk to your staff and ask what they are doing well, what opportunities have presented, and what the priorities are.

There is a strong link between the mental health of employees and the broader culture that exists in an organisation and why it is important to have an up to date Workplace Mental Health Strategy. If you don't currently have one in place or would like to review your existing one to identify any gaps then please refer to the how to guide below developed by Heads Up. Also refer to WorkSafe's work related factors page below, to better understand how these factors can affect an employee's mental health.

Use the following check list to review the extent to which your leaders are positively influencing change and identify areas for improvement.

Our leaders

  • have endorsed a mental health strategy and actively support its implementation
  • communicate the benefits of a mentally healthy workplace and what this looks and feels like in our organisation
  • role model the values, behaviours and emotions that are expected, and reward others for doing the same
  • create a culture where learning from mistakes and failure is acceptable
  • inspire trust within people
  • communicate openly, honestly and frequently using multiple channels
  • identify resistance to change and actively address this across the organisation
  • actively support the identification and management of work related factors
  • listen and are accessible when you need them
  • provide useful and constructive feedback to improve work performance
  • encourage and promote good mental health policies and practices
  • provide opportunities to develop professionally
  • create a sense of cohesion within work teams
  • reward and give recognition for good work

Step 3

Show leadership commitment

Watch the video to give you some further insight into the importance of leaders role in creating mentally healthy workplaces.

Now you can share the information you gathered in the previous step with your leadership team and work with them to agree on which actions they can take to increase their commitment to creating a mentally healthy workplace.

List all of the actions your leaders commit to over the next 3-6 months or longer. Each individual leader will take action in different ways based on their unique perspectives, experiences, skills, characteristics and relationships with their teams – the important thing is that leaders are genuine in the approach they take.

Prioritise the actions based on the level of importance and effort needed by your leaders and decide which leaders need to deliver each action. For example, the CEO and Board may show their commitment at an organisational level by endorsing and committing resources to implement a mental health strategy. Team leaders may show their commitment at a team level by creating forums for sharing problems similar to peer support groups. Your mental health strategy will help you to prioritise actions.

Utilise the simple template below to finalise your Leadership Action plans.

Step 4

Support your leaders

Individual leaders are better equipped to build a mentally healthy workplace culture when they have the necessary capacities, skills and mindsets to drive change. Recent research shows that to be an effective leader in creating psychological safety in the workplace you need:

Legitimacy

How we conduct ourselves and use our authority to remain lawful, honest and maintain respect.

Communication

The language used by leaders sets expectations for employees and helps build cohesion in teams.

Mindfulness/ attentiveness

A mindful and attentive leader displays a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to leadership.

Openness/ willingness

Leaders who are open and willing to discuss mental health will be in a better position to address concerns from team members when they arise.

Non-stigmatising

Stigma refers to negative opinions, thoughts and emotions. Leaders with non-stigmatising approaches are better equipped to identify signs of mental illness and support team members to access support services.

Trust and vulnerability

When a leader shows vulnerability, it opens up the possibility of positive and genuine work place relationships. This will create a space for honest conversations and build trust with your employee to speak up.

Growth mindset

Growth mindsets increase workplace engagement and openness to giving and receiving feedback.

Self-awareness

Leaders who can identify how their behaviours, emotions, and stress levels at work affects the people around them will help them in building supportive working relationships.

The self-care and culture pages in the toolkit have some great tools to further support leaders on how to practice self-care and implement a workplace culture where employees can thrive.

Step 5

Update your resources

Leaders will be more motivated and effective in driving change when they have up to date tools and resources in place.

Three common resources that support organisations in creating mentally healthy workplaces include:

Policies and Procedures

Examples include Code of Conduct, flexible working arrangements, leave policies, bullying and harassment and reward and recognition policy and procedures.

Performance and Development frameworks

Examples include performance and development framework to include regular documented conversations and feedback between staff and leaders, identifying and supporting staff training needs, and providing professional growth opportunities.

Programs

Training programs, health and wellbeing programs, peer support, mentoring and coaching programs, and additional support programs such as Employees Assistance Programs (EAP).

The development of these organisational wide resources and practices can be done in consultation with senior leaders to get there input and agreeance. Once approved at the Senior Leadership level the documentation and roll out can be centrally administered and governed by areas such as Human Resources or People and Culture.

These resources and practices reinforce leaders' actions by providing a framework for implementing change. They also create a standard of practice for what is expected across the organisation and contribute to a feeling of organisational justice. The sense of being 'treated fairly' and having 'equal opportunities' is incredibly important in creating a mentally healthy workplace culture and organisation-wide policies, procedures and programs help to establish a level of consistency of expectation across the organisation.

Read the Heads Up 'Nine attributes of a healthy workplace' in the card below, which highlights some of the practices we have just discussed. Have a read through for further tips and initiatives that you can implement as a leader in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Step 6

Review and keep improving

The visibility of senior leadership commitment to the implementation of your mental health strategy is a key factor for success. It's now time to review how the actions of your leaders, identified in Step 3, are contributing to success and being received by employees across the organisation.

Use the list at Step 2 to once again ask:

  1. How well have our leaders shown their commitment in the previous 3-6 months?
  2. What have our leaders done that’s been most noticeable?
  3. What actions have been most and least effective?
  4. Were there any actions that didn’t work well?
  5. In which areas could they improve?
  6. What's most important to focus on in the next 3-6 months?

Be sure to share what you learn across the organisation - regular communication about what your organisation and senior leaders are doing to build a mentally healthy workplace culture is critical for ongoing engagement and behaviour change.

Tip: Schedule the review of your leadership team's actions at the same time as the review of your mental health strategy as they are closely linked.

WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund – Wellbeing on Call: Leadership

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.