While many organisations generally have strong health programs or mental health offerings in place for their workforce, these are not always incorporated into daily operations, according to Dan Collins, founder and director of high-performance consulting firm Winners at all Levels.
“This means our leaders aren’t necessarily coaching the mental frameworks that keep us well emotionally, within our workplaces,” said Collins, who is a former Olympic athlete, sports coach and business mentor and advisor.
“There are offers to take advantage of mental health days or redesigning the workplace, but these are all afterthoughts in relation to the mental skills needed to help keep us healthy.”
However, skills such as having clarity of purpose and clear direction need to be practised on a regular basis to keep us performing well, said Collins.
“Understanding personal responsibility, ensuring we understand the conversation that’s happening in our own heads, and practising and understanding the dichotomy of control, are all things that can be coached and explored and talked about in the workplace,” said Collins, who explained there are three key areas that present opportunities to address these challenges:
- Leaders need to be skilled in understanding the key mental frameworks designed to support their people and their mental health.
- Leaders need to be skilled in coaching these frameworks across their teams, thus creating a safe space where people can be themselves, and
- Most importantly, leaders need to better manage the constant and unrelenting encroachment of work demands on any individual’s personal space.
“These days, everything we use digitally to stay connected to our workplace also connects to our personal space,” he said.
This can be detrimental to health because there’s no clear separation between the two and therefore no clear amount of time set aside for recovery, and Collins said the lines are constantly being blurred and it’s not always clear when to down tools – recognising the end of a day’s work to enjoy life outside of work.
“The same principles that apply to athletes, who need time to recover from large bouts of physical activity, apply to all of us,” said Collins.
“We need time to recover, both mentally and physically, after delivering consistent, purposeful effort.”
There are three number steps organisations can take to address these challenges and improve frameworks and resulting performance, said Collins:
- Educate your people on the most important mental frameworks designed to help them be healthy in the workplace and healthy in life. These frameworks could include:
- An understanding of direction: have a goal,
- Solid personal code to aspire to, a set of values, and
- An understanding of what personal responsibility is and how it works in their lives.
- Build a clear understanding of what is and isn’t in their control and focus on, as often as possible, the things that are in their control.
- Adopt an excellence mindset, focused on never-ending improvement and being the best version of yourself, which significantly tests and builds character.
“Ultimately, by enabling our leaders to coach these frameworks, we will see improved results in both personal and professional performance,” said Collins.
There are a number of important implications for OHS professionals in this, according to Collins, who said any increase in mental skills enhances our ability to be mentally and emotionally stable in both our personal and professional lives.
“The benefits of teaching the mental skills required to help us be mentally healthy are enormous, but unfortunately, we just don’t do this enough,” he said.
“The implications for not investing time, energy and resources into developing our leaders to enable them to coach others in being mentally healthy within our workplaces are huge, both in the short and more so, long term.
“The risks to our workforces may include disengagement, insecurity, uncertainty, avoidance of responsibilities, a lack of understanding and a high cost of candor.”
Making a solid commitment to supporting mentally and emotionally healthy workplaces, not just as a one-time opportunity, but as a genuine, consistent, and ongoing part of how we operate daily, will see a measurable improvement to performance, said Collins.
“Ideally, we want to create an environment that supports increased personal responsibility, organisation-wide emotional safety and improved mental resilience, for when it counts the most,” he said.
Article originally published by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety.
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