Preventive support for mental wellbeing is the responsibility of first-line managers.

How can we reduce the challenges to mental wellbeing in the workplace and positively influence organisational culture? Integrating preventive mental wellbeing services into work ability management helps create a healthier and more productive work environment.

Work ability management is not just about making strategic decisions and preparing reports. It is also about first-line managers being able to identify and respond to the individual needs of team members, especially in situations where mental wellbeing issues arise. Through preventive support from managers and team leads, challenges to mental wellbeing can be addressed before they impact an employee’s ability to work, and overall organisational culture is improved.

It is important to recognise that work ability management operating models, competence and cooperation are matters for the entire organisation. The costs of poor mental wellbeing for organisations are significant. An important role is played by managers, team leads, occupational health teams, health services and individual employees. This blog post examines, in particular, the significant role of first-line managers. We look at their role from the perspective of team and work community wellbeing, and how team leads can be supported in this important task.

Auntie already helps more than 500 organisations as a low-threshold mental wellbeing service. How can Auntie help? Read more below!

How should work ability management be implemented in everyday life?

The role of team leads in supporting mental wellbeing is becoming increasingly important in working life. They play a key role in implementing work ability management in the day-to-day life of their team members. For example, they can influence the following:

Routine management 

It is a good idea for first-line managers to plan and reserve time for one-on-one sessions with team members as part of the regular workday activities. Reliability and good communication create a psychologically safe, positive, and supportive working atmosphere which promotes employees' mental wellbeing and motivation. 

Early intervention and speaking up

First-line managers should be aware of issues that can affect employees' ability to work and, if necessary, intervene at an early stage. Recognising early alarm signals is key. The trust created through regular discussion also makes it easier to bring up difficult issues.

For example, excessive stress, work pressure and job insecurity can affect employees' mental wellbeing and work ability. First-line managers should support stress management and offer concrete help to reduce psychological strain on employees.

Performance appraisals 

Regular performance appraisals and recognition of work well done are extremely important. They are a good opportunity to give and receive constructive feedback. However, there is a risk if these are the only occasions for open debate. 

Why is it sometimes so difficult to bring things up?

Even if there are many opportunities, managers do not always react in a timely manner to issues affecting work ability. Here are some reasons why this might happen:

  1. Lack of awareness of factors affecting mental or physical wellbeing: First-line managers must be able to identify signs and risk factors related to work ability so that they can address them in time.
  2. Hurry and time management challenges: Due to the diverse role of managers, they often have many other tasks and responsibilities. This can lead to neglecting work ability management .
  3. Avoidance or fear: First-line managers may fear employee reactions if they address problems. If there are no regular conversations and little trust, these feelings are intensified.
  4. Insufficient resources and competence: In addition to insufficient time, managers may lack suitable training to solve problems. Team leaders and first-line managers are rarely psychologists, therapists or coaches, so they may feel helpless because they don't know how to support employee mental wellbeing. Auntie as a partner helps you succeed in these situations!
  5. Organisational culture: If the organisation does not emphasise wellbeing at work, first-line managers may be less motivated to be active. How they themselves are led matters!
  6. Personal attitudes and prejudices may prevent managers from intervening in problems related to work ability. However, all employees deserve equal support, so supporting managers and team leads in their work is especially important.

The manager’s experience, competence, personality, leadership style, empathy, and emotional management skills play an important role. For some, it is more natural to discuss emotional issues and wellbeing. For others, it is very difficult, making good tools even more valuable.

What about the manager’s own wellbeing?

It is also important for managers to take care of their own wellbeing, and this should also be on the leadership’s agenda. If we are really stressed and busy, observation, situational awareness, decision-making ability, and empathy skills may weaken. That easily reflects on our own work ability and leadership, as well as our resources to tackle important issues in general. 

By offering low-threshold support for managers' mental wellbeing and individual development needs, we ensure that they receive tools and means to work in a sustainable way. When you learn ways to relieve your own stress and lead yourself, it is easier to help others as well. Sometimes it's really important for all of us to be able to vent our thoughts openly, get outside sparring and perspectives on everyday challenges, so we can tackle them before things escalate. Auntie is here to support you!

Auntie supports work ability management

  1. Awareness-raising: communication campaigns, wellbeing at work programmes and information bulletins on annual mental wellbeing themes increase awareness of mental wellbeing and its significance.
  2. Supporting stress management: personal and confidential discussions with an Auntie professional consider a wide range of factors affecting your ability to cope at work and in personal life and offer solutions and tools.
  3. Early intervention and support services: Auntie helps first-line managers recognise early signs of challenges and ensure that everyone has quick and easy access to professional help before they reach the point of needing medical care or sick leave.
  4. Employee engagement, skills, and tools: encouraging people to stop and take an active role in their own wellbeing. You learn skills and get tools that go a long way to increase your sense of self-efficacy.
  5. Life balance: encouraging employees to maintain a work-life balance. 
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