Blog post,  Leadership

Update: Supporting your team’s mental health

I first published this article in July 2020. At the time, Victoria had just started its long lockdown. We were getting used to a hybrid workforce. It was still all new, we were still figuring out how to work in this new world.

Well, more than a year on and almost every state and territory is now in lockdown. Most people I know are working from home. The ACT (where I live) has had its lockdown extended for two more weeks. Many are juggling working from home with homeschooling or care. It’s not easy. Not for anyone.

If your team are starting to feel the effects of the lockdowns I thought it was time to reshare my tips on how you can support your team’s mental health.

If your team is working from home, even just a few days a week, fatigue will be starting to settle in. This “new normal” was fun for a while but now… it’s starting to drag on (for 18 months!). It’s not just working from home. The news is dominated by negativity – COVID numbers, vaccine numbers, economic statistics, job losses. Some of your team will be isolated, living alone, separated from family in other states.

There has been a lot of talk about how the pandemic is impacting our mental health.

I am not a mental health expert, and there are already a lot of resources available for you personally online. What I wanted to highlight is the role you play as a team manager.

Unfortunately, I have had a bit of experience in this space. I have had team members with bipolar who needed help from the mental health crisis team, suicide attempts, depression, anxiety, breakdowns. As a manager, these extreme cases can take a lot of your time and energy. But they also teach you a lot about who you are and what you can do to support your team. I am definitely no expert, but I know it’s important and it is something we should talk about more as leaders.

You may feel like how your staff member is doing mentally is not really your problem. But healthy, happy staff members are more productive, better team members, and have less absenteeism.

We have months and months and months of this to go. This is not ending anytime soon. So, what are you going to do to support your team’s mental health?

  • Be proactive – Ask people if they are ok? Not just “How you goin’?” but really check in on how they are coping. Be willing to listen, even to the tough, uncomfortable stuff. R U OK has some great tips on how to prepare for that conversation if you aren’t sure where to start.
  • Do something fun and social once a week – Creating a social connection at work can help to decrease loneliness and isolation. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes a sense of belonging as a need that motivates human behaviour – just like food, shelter and safety. What can you be doing to bring your team closer together? A virtual morning tea. Get to know you quiz. Check out my free online activities guide.
  • Share wellbeing resources – Don’t wait for your team to tell you they need help. Be proactive. Share wellbeing resources like yoga or meditation classes, articles to read or podcasts to listen to (see a list of resources below). Studies have shown that an increase in wellbeing at work can increase productivity by 12%.
  • Provide support signposts – Know what mental health resources are available to your team and point your staff if that direction if they need extra support. Most government departments have access to free employee assistance programs, or there are several free support services online (See below).

Some managers out there will be thinking “I don’t have time for this”. The thing is you need to make time for it. You spend 20 minutes in a team meeting doing a wellbeing exercise or take 30 minutes out of your day to talk to someone, and it can make all of the difference. Your staff end up producing more, working longer, being more present and happier. Basically, you help to create better employees.


Some resources to share with your team:


Mental Health

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