Top five tips on how to be an approachable line manager

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Richard Holmes


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In 2016/17, there were over half a million (526,000) cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety, and it accounted for 40 percent of all work-related ill health*. Contributor Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health.

It’s an issue that cannot be overlooked, with mental health-related presenteeism costing employers up to three times the cost of mental health-related absence*. It’s also emerging that employees are calling out for greater support at work, with 8 in 10 saying they do not believe their employer does enough to support their physical and mental wellbeing**. In addition, with the NHS being more stretched than ever before, is it time businesses took greater responsibility for their employees’ physical and mental health in order to maintain a healthy, prosperous workforce?

So what can businesses do? The first point of call sits with line managers. As well as helping employees achieve their goals, a key part of a line manager’s role is to be an approachable mentor, a good listener and to be understanding. Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, gives his top tips on how to be an approachable line manager and in turn, support your team’s mental health:

Understand strengths and weaknesses
“As a line manager, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone is an individual and therefore has different strengths and weaknesses – both mentally and physically. Therefore, using a bespoke, personalised approach is key. Everybody reacts differently to pressure, so to treat everyone the same can be extremely harmful to an individual’s performance.”

Don’t be overly formal
“Having regular check-ins with your colleague is a big part of a line manager’s role. However, in order to be approachable in a day-to-day situation, it’s important to hold casual meetings as well as formal one-to-ones. Try going for a coffee or taking them for lunch as a treat – which may help to make your colleague feel more comfortable and relaxed around you.“

Get moving
“By now, most people will have heard of walking meetings. But how effective are they? Studies show high amounts of sitting is linked to psychological distress***. Similarly, among overweight/obese adults, decreasing sedentary time and increasing moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity were associated with a reduced risk of depression. So, to help decrease the risk of depression and poor mental health – suggest having a walking catch up every now and again.”

Follow up on actions
“Once you have had a one-to-one with a colleague, it’s your responsibility to ensure relevant actions are taken. Colleagues will lose trust in you as a line manager and would be less likely to open up to you in the future if they feel action is not being taken in a timely way – keep your colleagues updated with the status of each action and let them know it is being dealt with.”

Don’t claim to be an expert
“As a line manager, you aren’t expected to be a counsellor. Giving out incorrect advice is just as bad as not giving it. If you don’t feel confident in providing advice, then it’s much better to share any issues with the most appropriate person – always at your colleague’s discretion.”



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