Published: September 20, 2022 | Comments
This month, we're featuring the contributions of the 2022 ICMI Thought Leaders and Featured Contributors. These leaders in the contact center industry regularly take time out to share knowledge to help their peers succeed. Featured Contributor Sayo Afolayan brings a great on-the-ground perspective to managing a contact center team.
Right now, it’s likely one or more of your team members is struggling with anxiety or depression, has experienced declining mental health at work, and is scared to disclose their mental health struggles
We’re still firmly in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an increased impact on everyone’s mental health and well-being. A report by The NIHCM Foundation, which supports health care reporting, shows:
- Reported symptoms of anxiety and depression have tripled and quadrupled, respectively.
- Over 50% of people have reported worse mental health at work since the pandemic started.
- Employees report that factors that impact mental health, like stress at work and work/life balance, have worsened.
- 30% of employees are scared to disclose their mental health struggles, fearing they will be fired or furloughed.
The World Health Organization estimates that the cost of depression and anxiety to the global economy is $1 trillion per year (US dollars) in lost productivity. They also report that for every $1 put into treatment for common mental disorders, there is a $4 return on improved health and productivity.
How do we support the mental health of our team members?
Here are a few tips:
Be an example.
You are first. You must take the right steps to ensure your mental health is in a good state before you can help others. This means acknowledging your struggles, seeking help, and actively using the tools prescribed to stay in a healthy place.
Then share your mental health journey or struggles with your team members. Show them you prioritize your own mental health. Speaking freely with your team members normalizes conversations about mental health and encourages open dialogue. This ultimately helps your team members to acknowledge their own struggles and seek help.
Be on the lookout
It’s important to recognize the signs of emotional and mental distress in your team members to provide supportive actions rather than punitive ones. These signs could include a change in behavior (lateness or absenteeism) or mood (pessimism), a decline in performance, isolation, friction with coworkers, a drop in energy or motivation levels, or substance abuse.
This means letting your team members know you have an open ear and empathetic heart towards their challenges and struggles. Regularly remind them you’re available to talk. When a team member comes to you, your goal is to listen without judgment and to show empathy.
Routinely ask your team members about their mental health. This can be done in your one-on-one sessions or in team meetings. Some people feel more comfortable speaking on behalf of the group on larger team issues.
- Once you see signs of emotional or mental distress in a team member, quickly sit him/her down for a talk.
- Choose an appropriate place where your team member will feel comfortable and safe.
- Ensure confidentiality
- Encourage your team member to talk – ask simple, open, and non-judgmental questions.
- Listen, don’t make assumptions – focus on the person and not the problem/gaps.
- Be empathetic - be positive and supportive.
- Make an action plan – write suggestions or steps to handle issues or triggers, identify what support is needed, and agree on the next date/time for a review.
Reduce the stigma
Deliberately seek ways to promote positive mental health and counteract the negative stigmas attached to mental health issues and illness. Put up posters, use hanging or table tent signs, feature articles in your newsletters, or give out specially branded items.
- Have trainings or information sessions
- Have training or information sessions that help your team members identify emotional/mental distress and mental health issues.
- Provide mental health assessment tools and support materials
- Highlight mental health support agencies
- Have wellness and health packages that cover mental health
- If your coverage falls short, advocate for your team.
- Create quiet/de-stress zones
These can be a special room set up to aid relaxation. They can have comfy couches, dim lights, board games, refreshments, etc. The aim is to allow your team members to take a time out, when needed, in comfort.
Be willing to provide your team members with unique workplace adjustments. For instance, flexible working hours, changes to start/finish times, changes in workspace, changes in break times, relaxed absenteeism rules, increased time off, increased leave period, or work from home time. According to Flexjobs and Mental Health America’s (MHA) survey on Mental Health in the Workplace, 56% of respondents listed flexibility in their workday as the top way their workplace could better support them.
Other workplace adjustments can be role-based, like reallocations of tasks or duties, redeployment to another role, increased supervision or support from the manager, extra training, mentoring or buddying, and more positive strength-based feedback.
Taking steps to support the mental health of your workforce is the right thing for leaders to do. Take whatever measures you can with the resources you have to help them stay healthy.