When we think of work-related wellbeing initiatives, what comes to mind?
- Being sent on a course with people we don’t know that are run by external trainers who don’t understand our culture?
- An app that we can download to sort ourselves out in our own time?
- A number of Mental Health First Aiders trained across the organisation?
- Or my personal favourite; the fruit bowl?
It could be all, some, one, or none of these. But what it can feel like is that something is being done to us.
Or that we are expected to work things out for ourselves and take responsibility for our wellbeing despite the culture and conditions being detrimental to our mental health.
Maybe even that, whilst we are acquiring useful knowledge, the culture required to apply that learning simply isn’t there.
What it rarely feels like is a team effort; something that we do ourselves for ourselves as a collaborative group.
How often are we given the resources, confidence, and structure, let alone the time, space and encouragement to explore these topics together as teams?
This is a challenge that we’ve been considering for the last year or so. For a number of years, we have been those facilitators delivering live training with a focus on the intersection of mental health and leadership.
And, whilst the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, we never quite felt like we were having the long-term impact that we thought was necessary to shift the dial in terms of culture around mental health.
Our experience has shown us that for cultures to evolve positively, there must be a sense of shared responsibility between the organisation, leaders, and individuals. But this can only happen when each party is equipped, encouraged, and empowered to take action to understand ourselves and each other better.
The cause of our low levels of literacy around mental health as a society largely stems from the fact that all of this can be awkward and uncomfortable. Understandably, not many of us feel equipped to lead conversations around mental health if we’re not experts; it can feel like we are well out of our comfort zones and that we might get it wrong.
Becoming comfortable with uncomfortable topics doesn’t happen overnight but it needs to start somewhere, and we believe that it starts with leaders.
Recent trends and research back up our view, suggesting that efforts around workplace mental health should be shifting away from HR Departments and into the hands of Wellbeing Teams but with leaders and managers stepping up as role models to drive wellbeing conversation into culture.
This way, leaders, managers, and their teams, decentralise relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours for the best effect.
A drawback of centralised and generic initiatives is that one size doesn’t fit all. Therefore, the solution to this is a safe environment that encourages everyone in an organisation to shape the application of knowledge in a way that allow teams to develop a narrative that is relevant and relatable to its members and their roles.
Another significant obstacle to progress is finding the time to upskill. None of us have whole days to commit to training, particularly if teams are to learn together; an approach that is vital if a common reference and language around wellbeing is going to be generated. The result tends to be that it takes months to arrange these things, if they happen at all.
We’ve come to the conclusion that if a team is going to lead a narrative around their wellbeing, the approach needs to be short, regular and fit into their normal flow of work; incorporated into existing meeting schedules and modes of communication rather than demand extra time which is rarely made.
Team-led wellbeing is an innovative approach to countering the obstacles of many existing attempts to improve cultures and attitudes towards mental health and wellbeing; a way of encouraging and empowering teams to tackle potentially difficult topics in a way that works for them in a self-sufficient, accessible, and sustainable manner.
But how do you get leaders and managers to take a top-down approach when they often assume they need to be experts to talk about mental health and wellbeing?
Especially at a senior level, there’s often a lack of knowledge, confidence, and awareness of the opportunities that wellbeing-related skills present.
Consequently, managers and leaders don’t feel psychologically safe or that they have the permission to start meaningful wellbeing-related conversations in the workplace. The lack of psychological safety then becomes part of the culture, and the onus remains with the individual employee.
The thing is, they don’t need to be experts to engage those around them, they just need to be authentic and have the permission, confidence, toolkit, and support.
If we are to have meaningful wellbeing and mental health conversations, they need to be driven by managers and leaders, only that way will it become part of a normal culture.
At Eleos, we’ve developed a solution called Genesis, that empowers leaders and managers to drive the narrative and equips teams to evolve together.
Why not book a demo or request a free trial.