Time To Talk Day takes place in many workplaces across the UK at this time of the year. It’s billed as the nation’s biggest conversation about mental health.
However, if all you do is pay lip service as it hits the calendar and talk for one day, there’s little value.
So how do you turn it into a conversation that lasts?
Create an open culture
Recognising that employees are people and not simply workers and understanding how they are feeling is one of the most fundamental aspects of running a business.
Organisations need to create a culture of wellness that enables employees to feel confident and comfortable in opening up, without fear of stigma, humiliation, or reprisal, 365 days a year. Psychological safety is what enables employees to use their voices and it’s more important than ever that leaders build it.
The sign of a healthy organisation is that it listens. Leaders who do not listen are usually surrounded by employees who have nothing to say. Suppressed ideas, silence and limited growth opportunities are all signs of having a culture where there is low psychological safety.
Taking the emotional temperature of the people within your organisation gives a good indication of whether they are bought-in to what you are trying to achieve and supportive of the way you are trying to achieve it.
It’s not rocket science. When people feel they can speak openly and honestly, they are more likely to feel valued, respected and personally invested in the success of the organisation. This in turn inspires loyalty, one of the most precious commodities that businesses desire but find difficult to achieve.
Be a conscious leader
One of the workplace experts who shares her expertise with users of our employee wellbeing platform Ashia describes a need for conscious leadership – where leaders become more aware of themselves and the impact they have on others, in order to create an environment where everyone feels like they matter. It’s important for leaders to model the behaviour they want to see in their employees she says. If employees don’t see encouragement and support coming from the top, it’s unlikely they will speak up as and when they need to.
A positive example of feeling psychologically safe was related to us by a senior executive in an insurance company. She explained that she had lost the baby she was carrying and had to call her boss to explain what had happened. She hadn’t even told him that she was expecting, so her call to him was completely unexpected. Yet because of the open and supportive culture he had created, she was received with the right words, with empathy and with understanding. Ten years on and she still works for that company.
Understand that employees are all different
Every one of us faces challenges daily but it is our ability to overcome and manage these situations which can impact our mental wellbeing, with everyone affected differently. What one person finds stressful another may not.
What organisations must strive for is the provision of appropriate help at an early stage, moving the dial from reactive to preventative support and therefore purpose and performance. But to do so, they need to understand what the underlying issues are that might be troubling an employee, not a well-intentioned ‘guestimate’.
To have that understanding you must encourage people to feel that they can talk freely and that you will listen to what they say and act on it. This doesn’t come from the odd day’s awareness raising, it comes from people having conversations, from sharing their stories, from understanding that mental health isn’t a one-day-a-year topic that is filed away for next year as soon as it’s taken place.
Turn awareness days into a permanent conversation
Dictionary definitions of conversation describe it as being an exchange, of feelings, observations, news and ideas. It’s a two-way thing, it’s interactive, it’s informal.
While awareness days present a chance to talk, they should be seen as an opportunity to start a bigger conversation that feeds into the bedrock of your organisational culture, into the policies you put in place and into the trust and loyalty you want to foster.
It is why our employee wellbeing streaming service Ashia’s unique storytelling approach helps to equip managers with the understanding and confidence needed to have those difficult wellbeing discussions with their teams.
Development of these softer skills will enhance compassionate leadership and have an overall positive workplace impact.
If you want your organisation to walk the walk rather than just talking the talk when it comes to supporting employee wellbeing, use this year’s Time To Talk Day as an opportunity to start a conversation that doesn’t stop.
And if you’d like to have a conversation with us about how we can help your business to achieve this, do get in touch.