06 October 2020

Managers must put on their own mental wellbeing oxygen mask so they can support employees

Being top of the tree doesn’t protect people from mental wellbeing issues, in fact it’s the opposite. The mental wellbeing of business owners and managers can often take a back seat as they deal with the responsibilities of managing staff and the business. And this can be magnified for SMEs, where they don’t have the resources of an HR department to help.

Challenging change

The regularly changing guidelines in relation to the pandemic is challenging enough for employees to deal with. An additional layer of pressure is added to managers as their staff look to them for interpretation of the guidance. So not only do managers have to think about what new regulations mean for them, but what it means for their business, staff and clients too. This can result in stress, anxiety and depression and it must be managed.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection says, ‘Just as we’re told on an aeroplane to put on our own oxygen mask before we help others, managers must support their own mental wellbeing so that they’re able to help their staff.’

While businesses have rightly put mental health at the top of their corporate agendas, they mustn’t forget themselves in the process. Extending support for mental wellbeing to staff - such as access to counselling, employee assistance programmes, apps and personalised hubs - can benefit them as well as their staff.

Financial pressures

The economic uncertainty is concerning for all and can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Employees have responsibilities for their own finances, and often dependants and families too. Business leaders are also investigating access to government support on top of managing profit and loss accounts. It’s important that all have access to support. This might include budget planning, debt management and insurance protection. When managers are looking at how to help their staff, they need to consider the benefit to themselves too.

Physical responsibility

Working from kitchen tables instead of a desk, doing extra hours to work round additional responsibilities such as childcare and eldercare, and taking on extra responsibilities at work to deal with new challenges, affects the whole workforce across all levels and takes its toll on physical health. Physical health affects mental health and managers are in a good position to lead by example to encourage their staff to look after their wellbeing holistically.

Managers need to be seen to take breaks – both during the day as well as annual leave, take part in team physical challenges, find a way of getting regular physical exercise and stick to it by making it part of their normal routine.

Businesses invest a lot of time, finances and resource into implementing wellbeing benefits for their workforce. When managers are seen to look after their wellbeing, staff are more likely to follow suit, and the beneficial results are exponential.

Brett Hill continues, ‘Managers mustn’t think they’re selfish in looking after their own wellbeing. It’s imperative that they do. It won’t only be them that benefits, but their staff, business and clients too. We have a long road ahead, and a concerted effort will be needed to proactively take care of our own mental wellbeing, and that puts us in a stronger position to help others.’