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. 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 5 Australian men suffer from anxiety so it is likely that any one of your staff is currently experiencing symptoms. Steps to build a safe and supportive and mentally healthy workplace includes:
Understand and challenge your own biases and stigmas. There is often a lack of understanding of mental health conditions in your workplace, and stigma and myths that would be impacting on Johnny’s view of himself and his colleagues view of him.
Some commons myths/mistruths versus truths include:
- Johnny has poor English and so avoids all verbal communication at work – Johnny needs to understand the changes and impacts and to talk through the risks and contingencies to address these. Consider having an interpreter or providing the changes and expected objections in writing (for example, we expect that services may run up to 5 minutes late for the next month as we adjust to the new routes) and follow up with a second meeting. Provide Johnny with a practice run with a driver trainer to address all concerns.
- Johnny is aloof and disengaged from the workplace – Johnny’s anxiety stops him from asking questions. As a result, greater effort needs to be put into Johnny to ensure he understands the changes and has an opportunity to discuss his concerns.
- Drivers from Non-English-speaking backgrounds gain support and information from their coworkers from the same cultural background – It is our responsibility, regardless of cultural background to ensure that all drivers and staff understand company requirements and changes and we should consider the best way to support this for all communications.
Talk to your senior management about all driver induction and training meeting the communication needs of all drivers/staff and how your company can support a mentally healthy workplace with translations, interpreters, buddy systems.
Engage in regular, simple, informal conversations help build a sense of belonging and connectedness. This promotes wellbeing and provides the backdrop to ask how Johnny is. Find the time to ask about Johnny’s family, his interests outside of work, his family and how they are going. Give Johnny time to respond.
It is important that you find the right time to talk to Johnny about his mental health and how he is managing the changes. This conversation is not about his performance or operational issues. Make sure that you have a quiet space and Johnny feels comfortable (note, this is unlikely to be in your office).
Make sure that you have enough time and are free from interruptions when you ask open questions (not questions that give a yes or no response) and give Johnny time to respond. If you are unsure what to say, be your authentic self and be sincere when you ask “Are you OK? I’m here to talk through any worries you may have.”
Refer Johnny for help through:
- Your EAP service.
- Supporting him to visit his GP.
- Supporting him through workplace adjustments (such as making the transition to the new route as easy as possible).
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:
Mensline https://mensline.org.au This is a free, confidential online and telephone counselling service for men.
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
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