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4 ways leaders can create a company culture that puts mental health first

by Ana Lopez
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The past few years have taught us a lot about ourselves. The workplace has changed dramatically and we have discovered both our possibilities and our limits. In doing so, there have been many changes – one of which is the workplace mental health debate.

There is no doubt that mental health affects work in a variety of ways, be it job performance, job satisfaction or even employee retention. As leaders, we are responsible for nurturing a corporate culture that puts the mental well-being of our team first.

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, here are four ways leaders can prioritize mental health in the workplace:

Encourage breaks: Five minutes can change the next five hours of your day

It’s no secret that work can cause anxiety, stress and burnout. As the workplace evolves every day, so does the mental health of employees. While work can be a fulfilling and stimulating place, it’s important to make time for breaks so that we put ourselves first. At The UPS Store, we know how important this is to entrepreneurs and small business owners, and it’s critical to keep this in mind amid the day-to-day challenges of running a business.

Five minutes can really change five hours of your day. Taking some time to practice mindfulness, meditate, take a short walk, or even just get outside and breathe some fresh air can help you become better equipped to handle stressful situations. Plus, you can be more energetic and relaxed for the rest of your day.

While taking breaks sounds good, the reality of taking them isn’t as easy as it sounds. Therefore, leaders should encourage breaks to ensure employee well-being. Whether sending an email to remind employees to go outside or hosting a technology-free luncheon event, there are several ways to get your employees to take breaks and prioritize their well-being over work demands.

Related: You Must Lead Yourself Before You Can Lead Others – How To Master The Art Of Self-Leadership

Empower colleagues to set boundaries and say no

Setting boundaries is a great tool for prioritizing mental health over the constant demands of work. Sometimes an employee feels overwhelmed by too many tasks, which is where setting boundaries can be helpful. By setting boundaries, employees can avoid situations that can lead to high stress or, even worse, burnout. One way to do this is to simply say “No”. By saying “no” to certain things, employees can be better able to say “yes” to the things that matter.

Enabling employees to live a life outside of work is critical to success. As our world becomes increasingly concerned with how best to approach work-life balance, we find that fulfillment outside of work has a direct impact on life at work. When employees have time to themselves to do the things they enjoy, work becomes less of a burden and more of a desire.

Have an open dialogue

Fostering a culture that prioritizes mental health means opening the door to conversations around it. By creating an open dialogue about mental health, employees can feel more comfortable talking about the struggles they face and leaders can better understand what’s going on in their lives. Through candid discussion, leaders can more effectively bring the mental well-being of their teams to the forefront of the business.

Ways to establish an open dialogue about mental health include organizing seminars, encouraging employees to use their vacation time, or setting aside time to monitor employees individually in a private setting. Regardless of the format, it’s important to communicate authentically with employees so they feel truly cared for and bring their true selves to work.

Related: 5 ways to protect your mental health

Create a culture of gratitude

It has been scientifically proven that gratitude affects our well-being. Listen to a happiness-based podcast or read a self-help book on the subject, and you’ll find that many researchers view gratitude as a source of positivity. This is not by mistake: gratitude can point us toward the things that are good in life rather than bad. And the same goes for the work culture.

Showing gratitude to others is one of the most effective ways to improve performance and promote positivity. Not only is it a source of motivation, but it also affects the overall happiness factor for your business. When employees are constantly surrounded by gratitude at work, that feeling of appreciation can become contagious. The key to creating a culture of gratitude is that it has to come honestly from one person to another – and when it does, the effect is formidable.

Placing mental health at the forefront of company culture can encourage more creativity, build relationships and drive an overall higher quality of performance. There are, of course, countless ways to incorporate mental health strategies into your business, as long as they authentically appeal to your workforce.

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