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Positive mental wellbeing: how managers can bolster employees

Published 15th November 2017 by Investors in People
Man with positive wellbeing at work

The costs of poor mental health are striking and the benefits of positive mental wellbeing are incredible. When we mentally thrive, we bring our whole selves to work, transforming our productivity and interpersonal relationships.

There’s good news and bad news: 56% of UK organisations want to do more on mental wellbeing, but unfortunately they aren’t sure how. To help turn the dial, we’ve put together five ways line managers can improve the mental wellbeing of their employees.

We’ve previously established how crucial the line manager is to employee wellbeing and engagement, making this relationship a powerful area to focus on if you want to improve mental wellbeing throughout the organisation.

Aligning organisational goals with individual goals

Job tasks should align with organisational goals: when they also align with the individual’s personal development and career development goals, many organisations view this as a bonus.

However, self-growth is a core part of positive mental wellbeing, making the alignment of job tasks with individual goals a necessity for high-performing organisations. The line manager must understand what motivates their direct report and be able to cascade organisational goals down into tasks that align with these individual motivators.

Job crafting is an important part of the alignment process, allowing line managers and employees to co-create work tasks that feel personally rewarding to the individual and valuable to the organisation. Don’t forget also that reward and recognition should be aligned to both personal and organisational goals.

Self-growth is crucial to positive mental wellbeing.

Helping carve their work-life balance to meet their needs

What is work-life balance about? Well, it’s about carving out life patterns that both improve wellbeing for the individual and increase productivity for the organisation.

Positive mental wellbeing is driven by the meeting of basic needs and by self-actualisation. Work-life balance must first focus on helping employees maximise their ability to meet basic needs, including family relationships, sleeping well and managing their energy.

It should then go further, giving them the time and space for hobbies and activities that help them self-actualise. This creates a virtuous circle, by building their positive mental wellbeing which they then bring back to the workplace.

Organisations creating work-life balance policies or strategies should ensure they are flexible enough to be mapped to individual workers based on their life circumstances and individual needs.

We’ve previously written about work-life balance tips that improve your overall wellbeing - take a look for ideas on where to start in this area.

Delegating to encourage continuous growth

Delegation is difficult for first-time line managers because they don’t like ‘telling people what to do.’

However, delegation is not about telling people what to do, but giving them stretching tasks that allow them to develop their skills, mindset and behaviours to grow professionally and personally. Self-growth is crucial to positive mental wellbeing.

Delegation does not have to be one-sided. If the line manager takes the time to understand where their employee feels less capable or feels the desire to develop, the process of choosing tasks to delegate can be co-created.

Encouraging healthy energy management habits

People have varying energy levels that are more or less affected by the things they do at home and work. That’s why, for example, we have written specifically about how you can help introverts better maintain their energy levels to become more resilient.

Self-growth is a core part of positive mental wellbeing, making the alignment of job tasks with individual goals more than just a nice-to-have.

Mental wellbeing is strongly affected by the degree to which we feel in control, which in turn is affected by how much we run down our energy levels and whether we take the time to replenish them.

We’ve pulled together an article on how employees can better manage their energy levels: line managers can help employees by empowering them to make some of these choices.

Helping them participate in purpose-driven activity

Sustainable feelings of wellbeing are linked to serving a higher purpose. Feelings of being a ‘cog in a machine,’ with no understanding of how your work affects other people's lives, can lead to feelings of helplessness and a lack of drive.

This is not about pushing organisational purpose onto employees, but allowing staff to job craft and fulfil their job responsibilities in ways that align with their worldview. For example, customer service professionals may feel particularly strongly about ‘going the extra mile,’ so empowering them to do so can improve their mental wellbeing.

Line managers can also help employees improve their positive wellbeing outside the workplace, such as coaching them to find out what volunteering opportunities most align with the causes they feel strongest about.

If you’re interested in positive mental wellbeing in the workplace, you may want to take a look at our article on why ‘fun offices’ are about much more than just employer branding and employee benefits.