Maintenance Protocols for your Employee’s Emotional Wellbeing

When you run a fleet of vehicles, their maintenance is weaved into daily, weekly, monthly, annual routine checks.

From refuelling, to checking and replenishing the oil and water, ensuring the tyre pressure is at safe levels, that the brakes are functioning properly… Every element is checked and ticked off and checked again.

When something goes wrong, the mechanic has a checklist of possible things that could be an issue.

The same goes for the machinery that produces your product. You put time and money and energy into keeping them tuned and operating at their optimum efficiency.

Not only does this investment in time, energy and money safeguard the integrity of your product quality, but it also reduces the risk of unpredictable downtime. Risk assessment calculations help to manage this area of production profitably.

The great thing is, that with their finely tuned engineering construction, vehicles and machinery are pretty predictable. Product knowledge and general engineering know how help streamline and systemise general maintenance. Anomalies are usually a case of following protocol and getting to the source of the problem.

If only your workforce were that predictable.

If only a bit of oil here, a tightening of a screw there, could guarantee optimum performance over a period of time before the need to replace parts, or invest in new if wear and tear becomes too far gone!

But your workforce is constructed of flesh and blood and bone, and emotions driven by a variety of different cultures, and backgrounds, and experiences, and beliefs, and circumstances.

Trying to squeeze all that into a maintenance protocol is like trying to get the toothpaste back into a tube after its been used on grandpa’s dentures!

Mental Health – the very intangibility of these words can strike fear into the hearts of companies throughout the industry.

Yet the cost to businesses is undeniable – up to £45 billion at the last count (and that was calculated before the onset of cornavirus).

In the UK, the rate presenteeism (when an employee is in work but not fully engaged or productive) as a result of mental health issues is nearly double the rate of absenteeism.

Let’s bring the issue back to your own premises – whether on the factory floor, the offices, out on the road, and of course throwing the current ‘Working From Home’ scenario into the mix – how can you protect your productivity against the mental health induced presenteeism without stigmatising the emotional struggles of the individual?

Most mental health interventions are reactive – waiting for the person to break before putting in place systems to help mend them. This can follow weeks or months of both absenteeism and presenteeism during which the individual gets progressively worse.

We’ll start off by clearly stating what you should NOT be doing, even though you probably feel a compassionate approach is the best way to go…

First and foremost, DO NOT attempt to counsel someone through a problem. You are blurring the lines of responsibility and inadvertently changing your relationship which is employer-employee, not therapist-client!

Secondly, DO NOT second guess a diagnosis. A lot of mental training highlights ‘symptoms’ you should look out for. In truth, even medically trained official diagnoses are second guesses at the best of time (I’ll explain this one another time). Making diagnostic assumptions is counterproductive and could set the employee off on an unnecessary rollercoaster.

As a company owner/manager you need to set in place a strategy of cultural change in terms of how mental health is perceived and talked about across the entire company. And then provide the education and tools to support and underpin these changes.

A more proactive approach would be to gently and persistently challenge the thinking and culture around mental health, both individually and collectively.

Underpinned by more empowering education about emotional intelligence, building individual resilience, and encouraging mental wellbeing conversations as part of your everyday working practices – all activities will compound over time to underpin a mentally healthier workforce that is more engaged, productive, and overall happier.

That’s not to say there won’t be ups and downs. But the foundations are being laid to give greater support, both as an individual, and company-wide.

Your approach needs to be long term. An individual’s mental wellbeing will wax and wane along a continuum based on what is happening both internally and externally. Creating a culture that encourages proactive and empowering reactions to life’s adversities and opportunities in time generates its own momentum.

Those less inclined to put in the effort may in time be caught up in the growing wave of those who begin to understand and implement their growing sense of self awareness and emotional intelligence.

Putting a ‘maintenance protocol’ in place for your workforce mental wellbeing does not work in practice – you cannot checklist against human emotions.

But putting in the means to charge and energise and challenge those very emotions that drive your workforce, could see improvements to your bottom line that would never have featured before.

Kate Ashley-Norman specialises in helping companies and individuals create an emotionally empowered workplace culture for better mental health leading to improved productivity.

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