The days of not talking about mental health are long behind us. Our understanding of the relationship between mental health, physical health and performance at work is very clear.
As a supervisor we need to create a work environment that supports and encourages open, honest conversations with our staff.
Why? What’s in it for you as an employer/supervisor?
- Good mental health supports us to be more resilient and cope with stress. The passenger transport industry needs drivers, mechanics and support staff that are strong problem solvers and resilient to ensure we deal with the varying nature of our work every day.
- A supportive workplace reduces absenteeism and decreases turnover. We know how hard it is to get good staff, a mentally healthy workplace ensures you keep them.
- A mentally healthy workplace has been shown to improve decision making, confidence and productivity.
- We meet our regulatory obligations by addressing psychosocial risks in our workplace.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a large part of your role as a supervisor. This means being available to talk through what went well and what didn’t go well and finding solutions.
We know that the most influential person in any workplace with respect to a worker’s health and safety is their front-line supervisor. As 1 in 3 Australian women suffer from anxiety it is likely that any one of your female staff is currently experiencing symptoms.
Steps to build a safe and supportive, mentally healthy work environment include:
Understand and challenge your own biases and stigmas, also those of Amandas co-workers.
These may include:
- “Female drivers take more time to learn the role.”
- “Women drivers need their hand held.”
- “Women drivers are more dependent on others.”
Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:
- Amanda never listens, she is off with the pixies – Amandas anxiety means she is so worried about doing the wrong thing she struggles to concentrate. Ask her to repeat the instructions back to you and write them down for her to review later.
- Everyone loves talking on the 2-way – A lot of your drivers would struggle to talk knowing so many people are listening, you need to give them an opportunity to practice on the 2-way in a safe way.
- Amanda didn’t really want to work, she preferred to be at home – People with anxiety want to succeed. They need roles where they are supported to manage their anxiety.
- Amanda was never going to work out needing lots of flexibility with 3 little kids – Women and men successfully juggle caring and working responsibilities.
- Amanda left before we had a chance to train her – We need to ensure that all drivers have the necessary skills and support to succeed in their role. Whilst driving involves “on the job training” it is important to understand all aspects of the job that drivers may have difficulty with (for Amanda this was using the 2-way) not just with the driving component alone.
- Amanda didn’t tell me she had any worries or concerns, and she was doing really well – As a supervisor it is important to check in with all new starters as often as possible. If Amanda’s fear regarding the 2-way was addressed immediately after the event and she was provided with training and or support, her anxiety may have remained in check and not have led to her resignation.
Engage in regular, simple, informal conversations help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Amanda is. Find the time to ask about Amanda’s family, their ages, what do they like and dislike about their mum working, what she is liking about the role, what doesn’t she like.
It is important that you find the right time to talk to Amanda about how she is settling in. Not about operational issues such as her performance in the role or what her next roster is. But how Amanda is coping both at work and at home now she is working.
Make sure that you have a quiet space and Amanda feels comfortable (this is unlikely to be in your office, nor in the drivers room with drivers walking past). Ensure you have enough time without distractions to ask open questions and give Amanda time to respond. If you are unsure of how to start the conversation be your authentic self and sincere when you ask “Are you OK? How is everything going?”
Refer Amanda for help through:
- Your EAP service.
- Supporting her to visit her GP.
- Supporting her with workplace adjustments that set her up for success.
Anxiety can be successfully treated. By understanding what these are you can provide the necessary support and direction to your team on accessing a treatment that supports them. To learn more about treatment options for anxiety please click here.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION?
Other good links for you to review or people to talk to include:
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety
If you want to talk to someone for free you can
- Call Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Text Lifeline – 0477 13 11 14
- Lifeline online chat https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat