Studies estimate that 25% of adult workers struggle with their mental health, with most neglecting to seek professional help from their doctor. As such, businesses that support the mental health of employees can be life changing. In this article, we will be discussing the 5 ways better team communication supports mental health.
Before we dive straight into the article, it’s important we address what effective communication really is because it’s not all about talking. In fact, a lot of effective communication doesn’t involve talking at all.
At its core, communication is about exchanging information. It requires understanding words and emotions while conveying a clear message. However, communication isn’t just about talking, in fact, 70-90% of all communication is non-verbal. It involves body language, facial expressions, and listening skills.
Effective communication skills are essential in all elements of business, from job interviews to high-pressure meetings. Learning how to communicate effectively will help ensure your emotions don’t get the best of you in challenging situations and will ensure you are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support those around you when they need it most.
Communication and mental health
Communicating effectively to someone struggling with their mental health is essential for providing support that is needed. If an individual at work is struggling with their mental health, it’s important they feel listened to and supported. If you can communicate with them effectively you may be able to help them on the road to recovery.
Companies that prioritise the health and wellness of their employees over company profits will create a better company culture, improve employee morale, and keep employees loyal to their brand.
Let’s take a look at the 5 ways you can better the communication in your workplace to support those employees struggling with their mental health.
Communication tailors support to the individual
Mental health is different for everyone. For some, it is hard to get out of bed and face another day due to severe depression, stress, and or anxiety. For others, mental health could be the result of problems with addiction caused by work-related stress or burnout.
The wide range of struggles individuals with mental health issues face confirms there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone has different needs and employers must be aware of this.
Effective communication helps tailor support to the individual. Through effective communication, you can find out what your employees’ needs are and how you can best support them.
Communication breaks stigmas
Sadly, there are many stigmas surrounding mental health. In fact, according to The Mental Health Foundation, “nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives.”
The stigmas surrounding mental health can be extremely damaging for individuals. So, to break these stigmas and provide positive support to employees struggling with their mental health, communication is key.
Openly talking about mental health in the workplace and providing a confidential space for employees to share their feelings are both great ways to break stigmas. You can also provide team training to educate employees and managers alike on the effects of mental health struggles on individuals and their daily lives.
The better people understand mental health, the more effective they will be in providing the right kind of support.
Communication builds relationships
Building strong relationships with members of your team is one of the best ways to support the mental health of struggling individuals. It fosters strong team dynamics, a sense of joint purpose, and furthers the success of your company.
If your employees have a relationship with you, they are more likely to trust you and come to you for support. Healthy workplace relationships help employees feel supported and cared for. They provide a space for individuals to share their concerns and seek the help they need.
Education is one of the most essential tools we have for better understanding mental health. Educating your workforce through mental health training days is a fantastic way to support mental health in the workplace. Invite experienced speakers to speak at your workplace, share their own stories and experiences, and educate your team on mental health and what it means.
Discussing mental health and educating people about it helps bring a very serious subject to the forefront and helps those struggling with mental health feel seen and supported and unafraid to talk about it.
Communication recognises and supports
How often do you show your gratitude and recognition to your employees? We all know how great it feels to be celebrated. Being recognised for doing a good job feels amazing. It makes us happy, as well as the person giving the praise.
Communicating your gratitude and recognising the hard work of your employees is a great way to support the mental health of your team members. For some individuals, just making it to work each day feels extremely difficult, so a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. In fact, showing gratitude and encouragement has a direct effect on our happiness, often inducing higher confidence in our abilities and increasing motivation.
Working hard to foster a work culture of recognition and encouragement helps support those with mental health struggles. It reduces stress, keeps lines of communication open, builds stronger relationships, and helps establish a positive work environment for employees to thrive in.
Communication expresses empathy
Mental health can be extremely isolating for those struggling and often, they find it difficult to clearly communicate how they are feeling. Many people struggling with mental health problems worry that what they feel anxious or depressed about or the reasons they struggle with addiction may seem small or silly to others. So, they tend to avoid talking about them for fear of being judged.
Communicating with someone who struggles with their mental health is a great way to show empathy. According to Very Well Mind, “empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling.”
Communicating openly and honestly with someone who struggles with their mental health is one of the best ways to show empathy for that person. Taking the time to simply listen without judgement can feel life changing for those who have shut themselves away from others for so long.
Communication supports mental health by listening
As we have already mentioned, so much of effective communication is non-verbal. And, more often than not, communicating effectively with an individual who struggles with their mental health involves simply listening.
Listening in a non-judgemental way is one of the most important ways you can support someone struggling with their mental health. Learning how to actively listen won’t just support you in your relationships with struggling employees, but it will help you succeed in every aspect of your business.
By listening to struggling employees you can better gauge how they are feeling, understand what can be done to support them effectively, and learn where you have been going wrong as well as what you have been doing right. Listening shows respect and understanding, it helps you empathise with individuals, it avoids making harmful assumptions, and it helps employees to feel supported.
Communication spots non-verbal signs
Don’t be concerned if your employees don’t want to open up about their mental health struggles at first. This is not uncommon and it can take some time to earn their trust. While you facilitate and allow space for those conversations to happen, in the meantime it is helpful to keep an eye out for non-verbal signs employees may be struggling with.
So much of how we communicate is non-verbal. In fact, most of the time we are using facial expressions, voice tones, body language, eye contact (or lack thereof) and posture to communicate exactly how we are feeling.
Learning how to read and use body language can help support those struggling with mental health by allowing you to establish relationships with others more easily.
Understanding non-verbal queues gives you a good idea of when to push matters further and when to back off. It’s important to understand how much non-verbal cues play into how we communicate and use these to connect with those who are struggling the most.
Communication establishes leadership
Effective communication in the workplace establishes leadership. Strong communicators are better at managing teams, building relationships, and establishing confidence in others around them.
By communicating clearly and effectively, you are letting your team know that they can rely on you. This is an extremely important part of supporting employee mental health. The more your team feels like they can rely on you, the more likely they will be to seek your advice and ask for your help.
Learning how to become a strong communicator is so much more than just talking to people. It’s about facilitating openness, building trust and relationships, and becoming someone other people can rely on during difficult times. Effective communication establishes true leaders in the workplace and makes for happier, healthier work culture.
As you can see, effective communication plays a very significant role in the happiness of your workplace culture. How you communicate can have a direct impact on the mental health of your employees and can mean the difference between a so-so company and one that is thriving.
Happy and healthy employees make for a successful company and we hope the tips in this article help you create a happier work environment that is supportive and communicative.
About the Author:
Chris has a background in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about improving the lives of others through his work and sharing advice around mental health practices. When Chris isn’t researching the latest holistic and wellbeing therapies, he’s spending time with his two cats, usually curled up on the sofa and reading a murder mystery book.