This year we're talking about and investing in employee wellbeing and stress management and for good reason. I don't dispute it's good to support people's mental health in general.
But as to work stress, are we really fixing the real causes or using wellbeing programmes as a sticking plaster?
Here are some reasons I hear from people whose companies may have amazing wellbeing initiatives but who nevertheless struggle with anxiety or depression because of work:
Unclear expectations. Don't know what my manager is really looking for and what are the priorities.
Can't make decisions. Even within my day-to-day job, everything gets second-guessed or over-written, or needs arduous approval.
Expertise being belittled. People don't seek or respect my opinion in my area of expertise, and don't include me in relevant conversations and decisions.
Too much or too little challenge. Either get thrown in at the deep end without any coaching or support, or am stuck doing things I could do backwards on my head.
My hard work is being wasted. I get asked to do something, spend lots of time on it, then get told without proper explanation: 'Oh we don't need that now'.
No visibility of bigger picture. Don't have a clear understanding what the company is aiming at, and how my work helps make that happen.
Which ones have you experienced yourself? - Then you know how frustrating and demoralising that is!
As you can see, all these issues come down to how work is organised, and how people are managed and lead.
They all play to Dan Pink's 3 workplace motivations: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. So that's an easy place to start if you want to fundamentally improve, and not unwittingly damage, your team's mental wellbeing at work.
Autonomy - we need space to own our area of work and make decisions within that.
Mastery - we need support and challenge to learn, and opportunity to use that expertise.
Purpose - we need to see what is the - meaningful - point of what we are doing.
Your company can have the sparkliest wellbeing initiatives and employee assistance programmes but if those basic needs aren't being met, people's mental health continues to erode and you see the consequences, such as increased absence, staff turnover and reduced performance, energy and innovation.
Luckily though, paying attention to those motivations doesn't have to cost a penny!
If you'd like support developing motivating managers - get in touch!