NSCA Foundation

Bosses must address their own mental health

AccessEAP
Wednesday, 05 December, 2018



Bosses must address their own mental health

Bosses can affect entire workforces, potentially increasing or lowering productivity, mental and physical health, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Worryingly, recent research shows that 60%[1] of workers are so frustrated by their boss that they would choose to replace them over getting a pay rise. So a good boss or leader needs to think about how to develop a healthy, sustainable and productive culture for their employees and themselves.

“Business leaders need to think about how they can be the best boss possible, not only for their own wellbeing, but for that of their employees and the company. If, as a boss, you don’t think you have time, remember you owe it to yourself and your business to prioritise your mental health,” said Marcela Slepica, Clinical Services Director at AccessEAP, a not-for-profit employee assistance program.

Marcela has provided her advice to leaders and managers on good mental wellbeing practices:

Remember, you’re allowed to be human

Bosses will take the weight of their businesses on their shoulders with seemingly limitless mental resilience. This archetype of the unflappable boss is akin to the toxic masculinity that so often prevents men reaching out for help.

Mental ill-health does not discriminate, affecting one in five Australians including CEOs, company founders and other business leaders. Be honest with yourself and respect the fact that you are human and are susceptible to feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the immense workload and responsibility of running an organisation.

Learn about mental health, your own and others, and understand how you can develop positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The culture of any organisation starts at the top, with your behaviour filtering down to employees.

Talk about your feelings — break the stigma

Where does it say that showing emotions or being vulnerable is a sign of weakness? This is a long outdated cultural belief that, as a society, we have moved away from. In fact, bosses need to talk about emotions in the workplace as part of leading from the top, to help break down the stigma.

By promoting a culture of open discussion, bosses can better connect with their staff and in doing so support their own mental wellbeing through positive social interactions.

Use support and peer networks

Business leaders often have impressive professional networks, including mentors in their own or similar fields, who they rely on for business advice in confidential and trusted forums. Lean on these people’s experience of coping in your role. While industries change and evolve, some of the big issues bosses face, such as dealing with employees, reporting to board members and yearly planning, have been faced by generations of business leaders who you can learn from.

Outsource your mental health

Running a business is a 24/7 role. While employees may clock off and go home to enjoy their evening, bosses are often putting in long hours at the expense of time spent making social connections or working on their health.

Putting in periodic meetings with a workplace psychologist will help make time for mental wellbeing where you will be able to get advice on coping mechanisms and issues you are facing both in work and at home. Through this type of support you can prioritise aspects of your life and deal with them in a structured way.

This should be part of your general self-care routine, like exercising and healthy eating. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time either and most EAPs will provide telephone or videoconference sessions which can fit in alongside your other meetings.

Go to work, don’t be your work

We often define ourselves by our work and this is especially true of entrepreneurs and other business leaders. However, the old adage ‘work to live, don’t live to work’ holds true even for bosses.

As people we need social connections, exercise and downtime to function properly. When you leave work, step out of your role and explore other aspects of yourself through family time, pursuing hobbies and generally finding ways to switch off.

AccessEAP is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider. It has been assisting companies across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia since 1989 in supporting a mentally healthy workplace. As an Australian-owned, not-for-profit provider, surplus profits are directed into programs to assist children at risk in the community through direct donation and via The Curran Access Children’s Foundation.

[1] Harvard Business Review - https://hbr.org/2014/11/half-of-employees-dont-feel-respected-by-their-bosses

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Andrey Popov

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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