Be vulnerable. Being honest about your mental health struggles as a leader opens the door for employees to feel comfortable talking with you about mental health challenges of their own.
Model healthy behaviors. Don’t just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. More often than not, managers are so focused on their team’s well-being and on getting the work done that they forget to take care of themselves. Share that you’re taking a walk in the middle of the day, having a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a staycation (and actually turning off email) so that you don’t burn out.
Build a culture of connection through check-ins. Intentionally checking in with each of your direct reports on a regular basis is more critical than ever.
Go beyond a simple “How are you?” and ask specific questions about what supports would be helpful. Wait for the full answer. Really listen, and encourage questions and concerns. Of course, be careful not to be overbearing; that could signal a lack of trust or a desire to micromanage.
What’s most important is to make space to hear how your team members are truly doing and to be compassionate. They may not want to share much detail, which is completely fine. Knowing that they can is what matters.
Offer flexibility and be inclusive. Expect that the situation, your team’s needs, and your own needs will continue to change.
Don’t make assumptions about what your direct reports need; they will most likely need different things at different times. Take a customized approach to addressing stressors, such as challenges with childcare or feeling the need to work all the time.
Communicate more than you think you need to. Make sure you keep your team informed about any organizational changes or updates. Remove stress where possible by setting expectations about workloads, prioritizing what must get done, and acknowledging what can slide if necessary.
Although managers will be on the front lines of addressing mental health issues, it’s on the most-senior leaders in your company to take action as well.