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    7 Leadership Strategies To Support Employee Mental Health

    May 27, 2024

    “How does working at your current job make you feel?”

    Imagine being a fly on the wall listening to your team answer that question. 

    Be honest, what do you think they’d say?

    Like a juggler, always one ball away from dropping everything? Or like a tightrope walker, teetering on the edge? Maybe like a machine that’s never turned off, always buzzing with tasks?

    For many of us, these kinds of feelings have become the norm. We hardly bat an eyelid anymore. 

    Isn’t this just the drill for working adults in 2024?

    Sure, we all hit a patch of busyness or feel wiped out sometimes—that’s just part of the human experience.

    But living in a constant state of stress and staring down burnout isn’t just “part of the job.” These feelings are flashing neon signs that mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, might be lurking, starting right from our workspaces.

    As leaders and managers, we have a crucial role to play in employee mental health. You probably didn’t wake up deciding to crank up the stress for your team or push them into burnout. But the real question is, are you stepping up to dial those feelings back?

    It’s time for us, as modern leaders, to hold up a mirror to ourselves and really examine how our actions and the environments we shape affect our team’s mental health. Considering Americans will spend about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetimes—that’s a third of their lives—we have a leading role in shaping their overall well-being.

    And yes, it’s great to see the taboos around mental health crumbling and the conversation getting the spotlight it deserves. But we have a special duty. We need to be proactive, not just reactive, in supporting mental health in the very place where our people spend a massive chunk of their lives.

    This isn’t just vital for their well-being; it’s a game changer for the productivity and cohesion of your team.

    Understanding The Stakes: Why Employee Mental Health Matters Now More Than Ever

    We are all about providing solutions here. But before we get to those, let’s lay down some groundwork.

    Our jobs are like double-edged swords for our mental health. A study by Mind Share Partners found that 84% of participants reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental health. Think emotionally draining tasks, a seesaw battle for work-life balance, and feeling like you’re invisible when it comes to recognition.

    And despite its benefits, remote work comes with its own set of challenges. According to a Buffer report, while many remote employees appreciate the flexibility, 20% struggle with loneliness

    So, why should these stats matter to you, especially as a compassionate leader who genuinely cares about your team?

    Because an increasing number of employees aren’t just complaining about stress; they’re making big moves. The same study by Mind Share Partners found that 50% of full-time U.S. workers have left a previous role in part due to mental health strains. These numbers skyrocket among the younger crowd, with 81% of Gen Z and 68% of Millennials saying they’ve left jobs to preserve their mental health.

    Productivity also takes a hit as a result of mental health issues. People are performing at 72% of their full capability and missing an average of 8 days of work in a year for mental health reasons.

    As talking about mental health becomes less of a taboo, more and more employees are stepping up to protect their peace of mind. We’re proud to be part of a generation that’s taking mental health seriously. That means, as leaders, it’s time to switch gears in how we lead.

    Spotting the signs of employee mental health issues is a great start, but we can’t just stop there. It’s about committing to creating workplaces that actively support, not damage, the wellbeing of our team.

    Your Remote Employees’ Mental Health Is A Symptom Of Your Company Culture

    There are plenty of perks you can include in your benefits package to support employee mental health—think fitness and nutrition programs, online therapy subscriptions, meditation classes, or wellness memberships. We’re all for those when the budget allows! 

    But it can’t stop there. 

    Supporting mental health isn’t just a matter of paying for perks to treat the symptoms of stress and burnout. It’s about creating a culture that actively works to prevent the issues from starting in the first place. 

    Because if the workplace is the root cause of depression and anxiety, then even the flashiest perks might just be band-aids on a broken arm.

    The strategies we’re diving into here don’t require a line item in your budget (except the 2 bonus ones at the end.) They’re about stepping into your role as a leader and laying the foundation for a culture that doesn’t just support mental health but champions it.

    7 Leadership Strategies For Supporting Your Virtual Team’s Mental Health

    Here are some proactive strategies you can implement to help your remote team stays mentally healthy and engaged:

    Establish Clear and Direct Communication

    Keeping everyone in the loop is about so much more than staying connected to move projects forward —it’s actually crucial for cutting down stress and avoiding burnout. When people are left guessing about their responsibilities, expectations, or performance, they can feel like they’re walking on eggshells. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that feeling on edge ramps up anxiety.

    It may seem basic, but transparency and directness can make a huge difference in employee mental health. This goes for all types of team conversations – especially the hard ones. By fostering an environment in which difficult conversations are approached productively and compassionately as the norm and not the exception, you’re not just communicating; you’re actively building trust. Keep those lines open—whether through regular check-ins or a virtual open-door policy—so your team knows that they’re supported, not just left hanging. This can be a huge relief and a simple but powerful antidote to the daily grind. 

    Model Work-Life Balance 

    We all talk the talk about work-life balance, but as leaders, we’ve got to walk the walk. You can’t preach work-life balance during the day and then be caught working like a night owl or tapping away on your laptop while on vacation. That communicates more to your team about your values than any policy you put in place.

    Remember, you set the tone for your team’s behavior. So if you’re constantly working when you’re supposed to be off, you’re sending a powerful message. 

    So, lead by example. When you clock out, really clock out. Encourage your team to power down completely when they’re off the clock. Sure, penning this into your policies might help underline it, but the real magic happens when everyone feels free to unplug and recharge, guilt-free. Make it clear that taking time for themselves isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged and practiced from the top down. 

    Build a Supportive Community Virtually 

    In a traditional office, regular face-to-face interactions make it easier to get a sense of your team’s wellbeing. You can usually pick up on the vibe just by looking around. But with virtual teams, we have to get a bit creative to keep that sense of connection. 

    Think of technology not just as a tool for work tasks, but as your virtual water cooler or lunchroom. This could be as simple as dedicating a Slack channel for non-work related team chats; a go-to spot for move recs, weekend plans, dog pics, all the fun stuff.

    Or, if you want to focus even more explicitly on mental health, set up a dedicated channel just for mental health resources. This way, you’re using tech not just to tick off tasks but to weave that thread of support through every interaction. 

    Offer STRUCTURED Flexibility 

    Flexibility is a huge perk and something employees value deeply. It’s even been cited as a positive factor in people’s mental health. So letting folks tailor their work days around their personal lives and styles can lead to improved mental health.

    But what we’re aiming for here is structured flexibility, not free reign. Too much of a good thing, even flexibility, can actually backfire on your team’s productivity and efficiency. And keep in mind that supporting your team doesn’t mean sacrificing what’s best for your business.

    If you were running a café, for example, you’d definitely need all hands on deck during the morning rush, right? Afterall, a crowd of under-caffeinated patrons waiting impatiently while just one barista scrambles to do the job of four is a recipe for unhappy customers and lost business.

    In the same way, if your business needs to have team members available for client calls or team meetings at certain times of the day, a totally asynchronous schedule might not suit. It’s totally okay (and smart) to set some boundaries to your flexibility. Maybe specify core hours for availability but allow team members to flex their start and end times around that.

    Turns out, people often thrive under a framework of structured flexibility rather than a free-for-all! This is all about identifying what your business needs and finding ways to offer flexibility within those bounds.

    Institutionalize Mental Health Days

    Time off is an invaluable perk and it’s and totally free!  Including mental health days into your PTO policy normalizes taking breaks for mental wellness, just as one would for physical health. 

    Making this move sends a clear message to your team that you see their mental health as a crucial part of their overall wellbeing. That’s a huge trust builder right there. Be crystal clear in your communication about your policy, so everyone feels genuinely free to use these days without fear of judgment.

    Give Them The Right Tools

    Work stress isn’t always about looming deadlines or sky-high expectations. Sometimes, it’s as simple as not having the right tools to do the job. That’s an easy fix! Make it a habit to touch base with your team regularly to make sure they have access to the right tech and software to get their jobs done smoothly without unnecessary friction.

    Continuous Feedback and Recognition 

    The anticipation of receiving feedback can really increase stress and anxiety for employees, especially when it’s delivered by someone who’s not exactly smooth with tough talks. One of the best ways to alleviate workplace stress is to build a solid system for giving regular and continuous feedback. Get really good at facilitating difficult conversations, making sure they’re handled productively and with compassion. If you can deliver feedback effectively, it’s a game-changer.

    And don’t forget to recognize achievements! It’s super easy to overlook someone’s consistent performance until it becomes the norm. But imagine being in their shoes – it can really feel like you’re taken for granted. Make it a point to acknowledge your team’s hard work. A little recognition goes a long way in boosting morale and driving engagement.

    2 Lost-Cost Strategies That Really Pay Off

    I know I promised we’d focus on no-cost strategies, but these next two are so crucial I just had to throw them into the mix. They might cost a bit, but they don’t need to break the bank or be ongoing expenses to make a big impact:

    Training for Managers 

    I cannot stress this one enough: investing in leadership training for yourself or your management team is key. The day-to-day experience your employees have working in your business is hugely influenced by their managers. 

    This goes beyond developing basic managerial skills like delegation or conflict resolution (although those are important and impact your employees too!). You should also equip yourself and your managers to spot mental health red flags and offer the right support. Seek out training opportunities that enhance emotional intelligence, sharpens communication skills, and prepares for crisis management. A top pick to check out is the National Council For Mental Health’s “Mental Health First Aid At Work” program.

    Offer Professional Development Opportunities

    Your job as a leader is to nurture the growth and development of each team member. Really get into the weeds with each person, find out what skills they’re itching to develop, or what projects they dream of tackling. Then, give them the tools and opportunities to grow professionally. 

    This does more than just polish their skills and open career doors; it boosts their confidence, cements their trust in you, and uplifts their overall mental well-being.

    Employee Mental Health Matters

    As the boundaries between work and home continue to blur, particularly in remote settings, proactive leadership is essential in supporting the mental and emotional well-being of teams. As leaders, the mental health of your team should be a top priority. By taking intentional steps to support employee mental health, you’re not just enhancing your team’s well-being but also building a more engaged and cohesive team.

    Remember, a healthy team is a happy team, and a happy team is a productive team. Let’s make mental health support an integral part of our leadership strategy.

    Works Cited

    Buffer. “State of Remote Work 2023.” Buffer, 2023,

    Mind Share Partners. “2021 Mental Health at Work Report—the Stakes Have Been Raised.” Mindsharepartners, 2021,

    Works Cited






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