How to Improve Project Team Members’ Mental Health

A good leader can identify when employees and team members are struggling to cope or perform to the best of their ability.

When it comes to long and complex projects with various stages, ensuring the team is coping with the stress of the work is essential. Implementing better mental health support in the workplace can reduce stress and anxiety and save US businesses up to $225.9 billion a year.

Ahead of Stress Awareness Day, how can managers recognize staff with mental health issues and support their mental well-being in the workplace?

Identify Mental Health Issues

According to a report by Aetna International, employees with undiagnosed mental health issues are more likely to lie about sick days due to stress than those with a diagnosis — suggesting there is still a stigma.

While mental health sick days should be encouraged to help team members recover, managers need to be able to spot the signs of struggles to reduce presenteeism in those that don’t feel confident speaking out.

Look for signs such as increased irritability, deterioration in the quality of work, withdrawal, a lack of motivation and rapid change in mood. Approaching these individuals and communicating the company’s support offerings can make all the difference.

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Remove Communication Barriers

Poor communication is the most common barrier which can result in a decline in team morale, especially with multinational teams comprising different languages, cultures and genders. Embrace diversity within your workforce by creating an environment where all employees feel valued by not only you, but their co-workers too.

Remove barriers by providing diversity and communication training, using clear and simple language, listening to individual employee needs and noticing that not all team members will appreciate a one-size-fits-all approach to managing.

Be mindful of how status can obstruct the free flow of information. Those in leadership positions should avoid filtering information or feedback because it may impact their reputation. This leaves employees reluctant to report issues or give constructive feedback due to fear in how it will be received or feel it won’t be actioned.

And, with 58% of Americans now opting for flexible working following the pandemic, physical separation is another issue managers can tackle by encouraging regular one-to-one check-in meetings to discuss personal and professional needs.

Monitor Workloads and Encourage Feedback

An experienced project manager is adept at long-term planning and activity mapping. However, 88% of people don’t have a proper time management system, which can result in them feeling stressed or burnt out.

The challenge for managers is providing tips and techniques which work for everyone — with different team roles and ways of working. Managers should therefore consider holding monthly one-to-one meetings with team members to understand their challenges and concerns.

This feedback can be used to personalize management training — teaching each team member effective planning techniques, such as how to prioritize, use tools to maximize efficiency and track time spent on tasks to suit their individual needs. For example, an employee struggling with distraction while juggling tasks may be encouraged to only check emails at certain times of the day to help compartmentalizing their workload.

And research shows that when employees can manage their time better and complete tasks on time each day, they are less likely to take work stress home with them — improving mental health.

Work-Life Balance

According to a recent poll by Ciphr, almost two-thirds of employees see work-life balance as the most important aspect of their job, ahead of pay and benefits.

Managers can encourage a healthy balance by implementing strategies that allow workers to switch off, such as encouraging taking breaks and employees to only work within their set hours or offering flexibility on deadlines, work hours or working approaches.

Additionally, it’s important to build trust and communication within your team to encourage staff to set clear boundaries and invest in relationships with other employees so they’re comfortable asking others for help or sharing personal issues affecting their work.

However, managers must set an example if they expect employees to follow suit. When employees see managers taking on unmanageable workloads, failing to delegate or struggling to communicate issues, they might believe this is the standard expectation.

Galen Low

Galen Low
Galen Low is general manager at The Digital Project Manager.

Galen Low

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