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Mental Health Matters Series, Part 1

This is the first in a three-part series about how leaders can evaluate their approach to C.A.R.E.S (Culture, Allocates, Realigns, Empathizes, and Serves).

Many lessons have been learned in the past 2 years as we slowly crawl out of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the more important lessons we all can seem to agree on is that our mental health matters. Yes, for lot of us, it took a pandemic to bring this “taboo” topic to light, and for others, it is a topic they’ve been advocating for years. Regardless, we are at a point where we have all come to the realization that when it comes to mental health, we must do what we can to help others.

As business owners and leaders there are tactical things that you can do for your employees to show them that you do see them; that you are there for them; that you want what’s best for them; and that you want to provide a safe working environment for them.

So what can you do as a company leader? What can you do to help your employees bring their best selves to work?

Simply put, an exceptional leader C.A.R.E.S. An exceptional leader evaluates their Culture, Allocates, Realigns, Empathizes, and Serves. I found out about the C.A.R.E.S. approach from Michael Towers, a leadership speaker and mental health counselor. He has a great website with lots of resources, so please look him up if you like, he has a great personal story about his own struggles with mental illness and how that took a toll on him professionally.

Look at your company’s Culture.

If you haven’t already, start cultivating strong relationships with your employees; show them you care. When talking to your employees, you don’t always have to talk business. When is the last time you asked an employee simply how they were doing? When is the last time you took some of your teammates out to lunch or coffee and DID NOT talk work?

Keep your expectations clear, making sure that everyone understands their role in the organization and what is required of them. Think about your own work habits and how that might bleed into what your employees believe is expected for them. Are you working late nights, weekends, holidays? Are you emailing after hours? Ensure your employees know that just because you might send an email after hours, they don’t have to. To drive that point home, think about establishing unplugged hours, when no one can send emails or other work-related communication.

Acknowledge your employees for their work. If someone has done a good job – let them know! Everyone wants authentic recognition. They want validation that what they are doing matters, so create that positive working environment.

Communicate with your employees. Make sure everyone is on the same level when it comes to outlining projects, meetings, and deadlines. Don’t always assume your wants and needs are coming across – ensure they are.

Promote and display zero tolerance. There should be no acceptance of negative, harassing or discriminating talk among your employees…shut it down. For example, “what’s wrong with Lisa today, she’s acting crazy”, OR “Geeze what’s wrong with you, why do you look so depressed?”. That kind of speech is not inclusive, and it can be very harmful. Shut. It. Down.

Allocate your company’s resources.

If you don’t have an EAP - Employee Assistance Program, you need to get one! Check with your benefits broker, as many insurance plans now have EAPs incorporated into their programs. We at Employers Advantage also offer an EAP for eligible clients – just ask! Make sure your employees are aware of the EAP program from day one – include it as part of the orientation process. Print out and post instructions on how to access the EAP or the benefits of utilizing their services. Only about a 1/3 of employees access their EAP because the other 2/3 don’t even know it’s available! And even if you do not need it, educate yourself with what your company EAP offers so you can provide your employees with some assistance as to where to go.

Look at your medical benefits. Talk to your broker and see what free mental health assessment tools are available – and if there are none, see if that isn’t something you can ask for during contract negotiations. Offer free referrals for employees looking for help from licensed therapists. See about offering lower out of pocket costs for mental health benefits, like telehealth options.

Just make sure that you as a leader of your organization know and understand what you as an employer offer to your employees.

Join us next week as we continue defining the rest of the C.A.R.E.S method - Realigns, Empathizes, and Serves.

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