How leadership changes the wellbeing conversation

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Workplace Wellbeing Show takes place on 8–10 September 2020. Get your free ticket today to access solutions, expertise and networking opportunities across three days at ExCeL London.

Research by Bupa Global in 2018 revealed that 64% of senior business leaders have suffered from mental health conditions. In this respect, seniority does not shield people from the same problems—workplace stress, anxiety and depression—that other employees face. In addition, 58% of them claim that it has become more difficult for them to talk about mental health since reaching a more senior position.

However, business leaders have an important role to play starting and leading that workplace wellbeing conversation, both by sharing their own stories of mental ill-health, and by working to create a safe environment in which colleagues are comfortable talking about theirs.

Leveraging ‘soft skills’ to create a supportive environment

Good management includes strong interpersonal skills, good communication and emotional intelligence; these traits can help managers create a safe, comfortable, positive workplace with a healthy, communicative approach to wellbeing. It can help them identify problems and conflicts among their colleagues and make them feel secure enough to share their troubles with their managers and team.

These are considered ‘soft skills’ and are often dismissed as unimportant as a result. But supportive inter-colleague relationships are vital to a productive workplace, so managers should leverage their soft skills to foster good relationships and consequently increase staff retention, loyalty, productivity and wellbeing.

The mental health conversation starts at the top

Leaders can play an even more important role in changing workplace culture by opening up about their own mental health struggles, thereby empowering more junior staff to do the same. One study found that around 57% of employees saw open discussion was the best way to remove the stigma surrounding mental health; more importantly, it found that 62% of respondents claimed they would be more likely to speak out if business leaders began that conversation.

This attitude has changed only recently. In 2011, Lloyds Banking Group chief executive Antonio Hórto-Osório took time off to overcome fatigue and overwork, something even 54% of readers of liberal newspaper The Guardian thought was unacceptable for a man paid as well as him.

And yet, leaders who do admit to experiencing mental ill-health help to normalise it, not just among their employees but also within society at large. To see successful people facing mental health challenges stops people seeing it simply as a disadvantage.

We’ve seen the impact of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s ‘Heads Together’ campaign, and the latter’s admission he sought counselling twenty years after the death of his mother to cope its lingering effects. This kind of national leadership has helped transform the conversation and shift attitudes towards mental health—according to research by YouGov, there was a twelve per cent increasing in people talking about their own wellness after the royals’ campaign, amounting to 1.5 million extra people within three months of the campaign’s launch. It had a particular impact on men, who saw a dramatic increase in their openness about their mental wellbeing.

Studying the impact at Workplace Wellbeing Show

Taking place on 8–10 September 2020 at ExCeL London, Workplace Wellbeing Show highlights the impact of leadership on mental wellbeing in the workplace through a series of seminars, presentations and case studies. You’ll hear from wellbeing champions and business leaders who share their workplace wellbeing strategies, and how their own leadership has influenced the conversation.

Get your free ticket today to access wellbeing excellence.