31 May 2023
Supporting Managers to Create a Wellbeing Culture
Being a manager is no easy feat and research indicates that many are struggling. If organisations want to create healthy, high-performing cultures, supporting managers is essential. In this article, we explore practical ways for organisations to support their managers in creating a wellbeing culture.
It is widely recognised that workplace cultures which prioritise employee wellbeing experience greater organisational success. These cultures prioritise the physical, psychological and social health of the employees. The result is increased productivity as absenteeism, staff turnover and work-related stress decline. This can be seen in the bottom line. Research from Deloitte highlights the significant ROI for proactive investment in employee wellbeing: £5.30 for every £1 spent.
Managers play an essential role in supporting employee wellbeing. Recent data suggests that 69% of people feel that their manager has as much impact on their mental health as their romantic partner (UKG Workforce Institute, 2022). Yet, managers have significant hurdles to overcome. The responsibility of leading a team can be overwhelming, especially during periods of instability. The pressures of meeting deadlines, managing budgets, and maintaining team performance can leave managers feeling stretched. It’s unsurprising that Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) found that 33% of managers feel unequipped when it comes to supporting their teams and 70% of employees report that their managers are stressed out (OC Tanner Global Culture Report 2023).
So how can organisations develop their managers to foster a wellbeing culture?
1. Build managers’ capacity to lead through uncertainty
Uncertainty can breed stress among teams, and this can be detrimental to employee wellbeing and performance. Therefore, it’s crucial to focus on developing skills within managers that enable them to lead through volatile periods. In practice, this means encouraging managers to:
- Build and sustain physical energy
It is essential to encourage managers to pay attention to workplace practises that promote health. For example, reasonably timed meetings, prioritising adequate breaks, and physical activity within the working day. By visibly demonstrating these behaviours, managers can act as a role model to their team to ensure everyone has enough fuel in tank to maintain performance during challenging times.
- Maintain a unified sense of purpose and direction
Purpose and direction are fundamental to organisations that are most adaptable to change. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure that managers are aware of the overarching vision and goal for the organisation. Having a clear purpose ensures that managers can remain focused during difficult times and bring their teams alongside them under a shared purpose and direction.
- Remain flexible and open-minded
It’s also important to encourage managers to build their flexibility and open-mindedness. Where employees do not feel that their ideas are welcomed, team morale and innovation stagnate. Effective managers are open to novel ideas from their team and can adjust their plans in response to changing circumstances.
- Foster a growth-mindset approach to challenges
Creating environments where a growth mindset can flourish is critical for leading during uncertain times. Managers that focus on staying growth oriented actively foster a team environment where challenges and adversity are seen as opportunities to learn and innovate.
- Prioritise healthy social connections
To help managers lead through uncertainty, it is wise to emphasise maintaining strong and healthy social connections. Likewise, it is essential for managers to promote this within their teams. Particularly where many teams are hybrid or remote working, having strong relationships mean that individuals feel as though they belong and are part of a community.
2. Support managers to develop a core set of human-centric management skills
Human-centric management places people at the centre of a manager’s decision-making. Human-centric managers know how to:
- Take a coaching approach to unlock the full potential of their team.
- Create a feedback culture that enables team members to grow and develop and ensures that everyone is aligned with organisational goals.
- Manage team pressure so that team members can move from stress to strength.
- Lead teams through periods of change, effectively managing resistance and supporting team members through the inevitable emotional reactions to uncertainty.
- Foster open communication about wellbeing. When team members struggle, performance suffers. Effective managers are able to notice when this happens and have the confidence to initiative a conversation.
- Promote psychological safety within their team. A psychologically safe environment is crucial for team performance. When a team feels safe, they are more likely to express their ideas and innovate, voice their concerns, and take risks.
While these skills are not learned overnight, organisations can take practical steps towards fostering human-centric management. This can include specific training programmes or workshops that address these key areas. For a more targeted approach, organisations could invest in 1-1 coaching to help managers develop their own unique management style that includes key principles of human-centric management.
3. Encourage managers to initiate regular wellbeing conversations
Supporting a culture of healthy performance and wellbeing means that wellbeing is not just a tick-box exercise but is fully integrated into an organisation’s ways of working. To make this happen, consider setting expectations and guidelines around how managers can integrate conversations about wellbeing into their 1-1s with their team. For managers who are unsure where to start, here are some useful prompts to open a conversation on wellbeing:
- How are you feeling both physically and emotionally?
- How comfortable do you feel talking to me about any personal or work-related issues that may be impacting your wellbeing?
- What, if anything, may be going on outside of work that might be affecting your wellbeing?
- How often are you able to take breaks during work hours?
- What do you do for self-care during work hours?
- What do you need from me or the company to support your wellbeing?
- How can we work together to ensure a healthy work-life balance for you?
- Is there anything about your current workload that is causing you stress or anxiety?
- Have you been able to maintain your personal hobbies and interests outside of work?
4. Provide ongoing support and training
It is essential that managers feel well supported in their roles and that, as management practices evolve, organisations keep pace. Ongoing management development might include some of the following:
- Establishing a mentorship programme
By pairing more experienced managers with newer managers, a framework for the sharing of best practice can be established that not only builds confidence but fosters a supportive culture.
- Creating peer to peer support groups
Creating a dedicated space for managers across different teams and departments to share their experiences, challenges and best practices is invaluable in helping managers lead for wellbeing. This could be done through regular meetings, or a separate channel on workplace communication apps.
- Offering training and development programmes
Providing regular training and development opportunities for managers is invaluable as managers will benefit from refining their existing skills and adopting new ones. These can be workshops, courses, or coaching sessions focused on specific skills or areas of development.
- Providing access to resources
Ensure that managers have access to relevant resources and tools to support their wellbeing and performance. This can include online resources such as articles, podcasts, and videos, as well as books and training materials.
Fostering wellbeing within an organisation is a team effort where everyone has a role to play. However, a key driver of employee wellbeing starts with managers. Yet, managers face significant challenges. All the more so in periods of instability and change. To set managers up for success, organisations should proactively support managers to foster a healthy culture of wellbeing in their teams. This means, supporting them to lead through uncertainty, developing a core set of human-centric management skills, and integrating wellbeing into the organisation’s ways of working. By doing so, organisations can ensure that wellbeing isn’t just a tick box initiative, but a strategic driver of healthy performance and employee engagement.
About the author
SANDRA ORDEL is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist at The Wellbeing Project. She has extensive consulting experience within a wide range of organisations and industry sectors.
This article was originally published on: Workplace Wellbeing Professional
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