Mental health is good for business
Since the pandemic, you’ve shown resilience and fortitude and worked extra hard to pivot your business. But what about your mental health? To help you get some perspective and explore possible solutions, we talked to Sandra-Kim Dubois, BSc in Psychology, at Optima Global Health.
As a manager, it’s not always easy to deal with your own stress while helping your employees manage theirs and providing inspiration and hope. These tips will help you move forward even in these difficult times.
What are the main psychological issues business owners are dealing with right now?
Although many entrepreneurs say they’re in control of the situation1, we have to pay close attention to warning signs. Anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and depression may be expected in turbulent times, but we still have to take them seriously.
Even when business is going well, there are still many sources of stress:
- High expectations of yourself
- Work/life balance
- Fear of failure
- The health and wellbeing of partners and employees
- Uncertainty over the economy and cash flow
“These worries can affect entrepreneur health and wellbeing and contribute to feelings of powerlessness. If a company has been hit hard by the pandemic or experienced unexpected growth, managers must work twice as hard to adapt to the current circumstances. Because they’re often overwhelmed with work and busy solving problems, they tend to neglect themselves.”
Taking care of yourself is a way to demonstrate leadership
Some managers are afraid of losing credibility if they show vulnerability, but acting invincible isn’t the best example for your employees. It can send the message that they shouldn’t show weakness either. That doesn’t mean you have to vent about your problems, but you can still say there are aspects of the current situation you’ve found hard, too.
Admitting our struggles is not a sign of weakness. Taking care of ourselves and seeking help actually shows our employees we’re doing something about our problems so they don’t take over our lives. It’s a good way to demonstrate leadership and show by example.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs?
To manage your business effectively and maintain healthy business relationships, it’s important to take care of yourself. To boost employee morale, you first have to take care of your own. Talking to friends and family or a professional can help you get perspective and feel less alone.
You should focus on what you can control. That means taking stock, re-evaluating your goals and redefining your short- and medium-term objectives. If you decide you need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or management coach.
In general, we should take the time to exercise, get enough sleep, eat well and pursue hobbies and pastimes. In other words, a healthy routine and lifestyle.
Tips and reminders
These tips help you take a step back and redirect your thinking. Using them daily will help you reduce your stress and be more confident in dealing with challenges.
- Get enough sleep
Fatigue makes us more vulnerable to stress. Rest improves productivity.
Physical activity channels energy and releases serotonin and endorphins. Even just walking has many benefits.
- Meditate or focus on your breath
Meditation reduces stress, improves focus and can even boost performance.
- Take control
Focus on the things you can control. You’ll feel more confident in your ability to manage challenges.
- Laugh and smile
Laughing releases endorphins, just like physical activity. A simple smile goes a long way.
Talking with people and spending time with friends and family (even virtually) contributes to our well-being.
- Keep a journal
It’s better to get our thoughts down on paper instead of ruminating. Writing down what you liked or disliked about your day can help you get some perspective.
How can managers support their employees’ mental health?
As an employer, you have a certain responsibility to support your employees’ mental health. If you notice any changes in mood, performance, motivation or attitude for more than a few days or weeks, put yourself in listening mode. Find out what’s really going on and what might be causing the problem to prevent health problems from developing. By talking to them, you can come up with a solution together (using the employee assistance program (EAP), seeing a doctor, changing their work schedule, etc.).
Are there any traps to avoid in managing employees working from home?
You should be flexible, especially with respect to work hours and availability. Since everyone can be reached at any time, the boundaries between work and home life are fuzzier. Both sides should set reasonable expectations to maintain some balance.
Micromanaging is one trap to avoid. If you try to control all aspects of your employees’ work or find it hard to delegate, your team may become less motivated and feel you don’t trust them to do their job. That can result in lower productivity. Show confidence in your employees and make any needed adjustments, instead of keeping a close watch over them. Showing you trust them will help create a much more positive work environment.
What key skills are needed to maintain team spirit while working remotely?
You should learn to trust your team. Give them the chance to develop more autonomy and accountability. Objectives-based performance management is effective with employees working from home because it reflects their current reality. You also have a role to play in helping teams stay connected and motivated, for example, by organizing videoconference team meetings or virtual lunches.
We’ve been talking a lot about working from home, but what tools would you recommend for managers who want to effectively support their frontline employees?
As a manager, a good way to support your team is by lending a hand on the ground. If that’s not possible, continue to check in with them to see how they’re doing.
“Take the time to listen. Some people have a bigger workload because of the pandemic. Your team will definitely appreciate you taking action to make things better, like hiring more people or offering relevant training.”
Entrepreneurs are used to meeting challenges every day, often on their own. What advice would you give for knowing when it’s time to ask for help?
Illness doesn’t usually develop overnight. When we’re in good mental health, we feel balanced and we’re happy with how we’re doing in the different areas of our life.
When stress and anxiety accumulate, it can cause psychological distress, which shows up in many ways: insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, problems focusing, lack of motivation, conflicts with coworkers and so on. If any of these symptoms last more than 2 weeks, the employee should get professional help. These are warning signs employers need to pay close attention to so things don’t get worse.
Motivation starts with ourselves
How do managers motivate employees if they’re struggling themselves?
They should lead by example by taking good care of themselves for starters. They should set clear goals to stay motivated and share them with their employees to inspire and motivate them in turn.
Employee motivation depends on 3 things:
- Maintaining positive relationships with coworkers, supervisors and partners
- Feeling confident in their ability to do their job
- Having a sense of autonomy
Any last piece of advice to help business owners and their employees?
They should be really good to themselves and their staff. The possibilities are endless. They might offer employees a flexible work schedule or provide access to online yoga, meditation or fitness classes. Approaches can vary, but the goal is to offer support and a way to relieve stress. They should check in with their team regularly, listen to what they have to say and get help if they or their employees need it—there are many resources available.
Asking for help is a sign of strength!
Resources for you and your employees:
- Info-Social 811: free, confidential 24/7 telephone psychosocial consultation service
- Optima Global Health: access to psychologists, social workers and psychoeducators
- Phobies-Zéro (In French only): support groups for those suffering from anxiety, isolation and stress
- 514-276-3105 / 1-866-922-0002
- Revivre : an organization that helps individuals who suffer from anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder
- 1-866-REVIVRE (738-4873)
- Suicide Action Montréal: 24/7 telephone support
- Interligne: 24/7 helpline for the LGBTQ+ community
- Multi-Écoute(In French only): Multilingual help service
1. BDC, « BDC, Canadian Entrepreneur Mental Health and Well-being Report [https://www.bdc.ca/globalassets/digizuite/26609-well_being_study_bdc_2020_en.pdf]