Featuring: Susan Milligan, Director, Patient + Guest Experience, Ensemble Health Partners
Starting a mental health movement can be a powerful way to raise awareness, reduce stigma and promote mental health and well-being in the workplace. To do this, there are two foundational requirements: breaking the stigma that often surrounds mental health and leaders to drive the movement.
In our busy lives, we often tend to neglect our mental health needs because they may not be as apparent as our physical needs, or we may not prioritize them as highly. Starting with a healthy mindset about the importance of mental health is essential.
Many organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that connect associates with free or discounted counseling services. These services not only support physical health but also provide guidance on establishing work-life balance, managing finances and seeking help in dealing with mental health challenges.
By following these six quick tips, leaders can emphasize the importance of both physical and mental well-being:
1. Allow Autonomy
When you give your team members the freedom to make decisions, it can lead to increased job satisfaction and better service delivery. By encouraging autonomy, you empower your team to evaluate situations based on their own standards, which often results in improved performance.
Here’s a quick tip: Hold regular meetings where you can discuss decisions and review the outcomes together. This helps create a team approach to problem-solving and allows everyone to learn from any mistakes. You can even create a playbook for common situations to guide your team’s approach and ensure consistency in the future.
2. Establish Environmental Mastery
Autonomy and environmental mastery go hand in hand in empowering your team and building their competence and expertise. When associates can make effective use of surrounding opportunities — flex schedules, hybrid roles, cross-training, educational opportunities, etc. — their personal needs and values are supported, increasing happiness and well-being.
Here’s a quick tip: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to scheduling and workflow management. There’s more than one way to get things done, so be open to different methods and approaches. By doing so, you can fill schedules, meet goals and drive change in new and innovative ways.
3. Encourage Personal Growth
At the end of the day, our most valuable asset is our people. As leaders, it’s crucial to understand our team members on an individual level so we can help them reach their full potential. This means building strong relationships through regular check-ins, one-on-one meetings and team gatherings with open and honest communication.
When you know your team’s aspirations and developmental goals, it’s easier to guide them in the right direction. As your associates see their skills and abilities improve, they’ll gain more confidence and seek out new opportunities for growth.
Here’s a quick tip: Don’t assume you know what your team members want. Schedule meaningful conversations to discuss their short- and long-term goals, and work with them to create a growth plan. Celebrate the small wins along the way and foster accountability to keep them motivated and on track.
4. Inspire Positive Relations with Others
We all need someone we can count on, especially at work. Having a “battle buddy” — a work confidant you trust and can confide in – can make a big difference. These relationships help build understanding, empathy and a safe space where you can be yourself.
Here’s a quick tip: Start building these relationships right from the onboarding process! Connect new hires with someone who can support them as they get started in their new role. Plan team events both inside and outside of the office, and make sure to include your virtual team members as well. Volunteer together and create a strong team dynamic where everyone feels included and valued.
5. Connect to Purpose
Teams that feel connected to their work are more likely to thrive. When a job becomes a calling, people find more meaning and fulfillment in what they do. To foster this kind of connection, it’s important to focus your team’s vision on the mission of your organization. Help them understand the importance of their presence and dedication to the cause.
Here’s a quick tip: Work with your team to set meaningful goals that align with both their personal and professional aspirations. Show them how their work directly contributes to the mission of the organization. For example, if your team is focused on collecting payments, explain how that money is used to support patient care or community initiatives. When your team understands the bigger picture, they’re more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work.
6. Foster Self-Acceptance
Self-acceptance is key to overall well-being because it allows us to embrace every part of ourselves, not just the “positive” aspects. As a leader, you can model self-acceptance by showing vulnerability and sharing your own struggles and experiences to help employees feel comfortable doing the same. You can also celebrate diversity and individual differences within the team by encouraging employees to share their cultural backgrounds, beliefs and experiences — creating a richer, more inclusive workplace culture.
Here’s a quick tip: Encourage employees to practice gratitude by keeping a daily journal where they write down three things they are grateful for each day. This exercise can help shift their focus from negative self-talk to a more positive outlook and increase self-acceptance.
Focusing on mental health is not a one-day exercise.
Great leaders can recognize when their associates are stretched and nearing their limits. Being able to spot the signs of overwork, stress or mental health needs is crucial in creating a culture that supports mental health.
It’s important not to wait for associates to express their frustration or reach the point of burnout. Instead, leaders should take a proactive approach by reassigning responsibilities or providing time off to allow their team to refresh and recharge.
Leaders play a vital role in driving this movement and creating an atmosphere of support and empowerment. Be that leader who takes action to prioritize the mental health of your team.
Susan Milligan, CHAM, CRCR, is the patient experience director for Ensemble Health Partners. Informed by her experiences in healthcare and as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, she is passionate about helping healthcare organizations improve their patient experience through empathy, empowerment and engagement.