"Be careful when you ask someone how they are ... because they might just tell you!"
Updated: Mar 29
Some recent research published by a Harvard based research group suggest that the three most useless words in the English language are "How are you"? This is because it is the most widely used entree into 'small talk' with no intention of wanting a response.
However it is vital that we do ask people how they are and that we back it with follow up questions to show we care, we are interested, and we want to know if everything is alright.
Often people aren't alright but will say things like "yeah I'm good thanks" because they don't want or don't know how to say it's not fine.
Since the pandemic - the UK has experienced a huge rise in absenteeism in the work place to a new 10 year record high. The causes are reported as including an increase in illness (mental and physical), stress and anxiety, presenteeism, the challenges of a cultural shift from 100% office working to home / virtual working and the lack of experience of companies to know how to spot, identify and help resolve mental welfare issues.
Despite the widely shared and important movement towards it being OK to talk about how you feel there are still challenges to be faced in the UK workplace. They include:.......
Stigma - people still feel ashamed, embarrassed or unsure about if they 'qualify' as having an issue or if an issue of this nature may be a career limiting move
Fear of Judgment - Concern that people will think less or badly of them
Lack of Understanding: Many companies do not understand how to respond when mental welfare issues arise
Personal Discomfort - Some people find it harder to talk about personal matters and we all have differing levels of emotional intelligence and emotional fluency
Cultural - Industry expectation - Some sectors of industry still breed a culture of required stoicism, self reliance and resilience (banking for example)
Fear of Consequences - People may fear the consequences of being open
So what can be done about this to make your teams feel happier and more valued:
Promote mental wellbeing by monitoring mental health
Have regular 1-2-1 meetings and be aware of any changes in appearance, demeanor, attitude, physicality, engagement all of which may signal all is not as it should be.
Create safe spaces in which people can talk
Mentoring - provide trusted 'buddies', go to persons, partners, relationships
Have relations with external resources to provide psychological and / or clinical support
Provide mental welfare training
Show appreciation through public and individual recognition
Provide significant personal development opportunities (where possible tailored to them individually)
Listen and encourage open dialogue
Offer regular and constructive feedback
Give autonomy to make decisions and own actions
Promote healthy living and work-life balance (offer gym discounts, healthy eating opportunities, counselling clinics, sport and exerecise activities
Be flexible about working patterns, environments, locations
Ask your teams what they need and what they want.
Well-being at work is the right of every employee and better awareness and increased training in Mental health and Welfare is vital from onboarding and induction all the way through the career life cycle to the Boardroom.