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The Role of Coaching in Improving the Mental Health of Employees in the Workplace

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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The conversation around mental health has been going on for some time now. Prior to the pandemic, it was often a knee-jerk action, a response to pressure from the workforce. Increasing the focus on mental health has become imperative today.

Navigating the constant uncertainties and transitions of the past two years has been tough even for the most resilient. Employees are struggling with anxiety, depression, burnout, trauma, and loss…the list continues. 

Mental health experiences are unique depending on race, citizenship status, economic status, caregiving responsibilities, and many other variables. In a global survey, two out of five (41.6%) of respondents said that their mental health has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The survey further revealed:

  • 44.4% of those who are now working from home say their mental health has declined
  • 40.5% of C-level employees report decreased mental health
  • 65.9% of people report higher levels of stress since the outbreak
  • 42.9% report feeling generally more confused
  • 75.2% feel more socially isolated than they did before the outbreak
  • 28.3% find it difficult to concentrate while 14.7% have trouble thinking, reasoning, or deciding

The dwindling mental health status of employees is now a massive cause of concern. Depression is now one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that coupled with anxiety, it costs the global economy approximately $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

The mental health crisis is rising, and people are more comfortable talking about it in the workplace. Taking time off to focus on mental health is also becoming increasingly common. And forward-thinking organizations are working towards moving employee well-being and mental health to the forefront of business.

The role of coaching in improving mental health in the workplace

Coaching will play an important role in helping the workforce manage their mental health and take complete charge of their well-being. 

Good mental health 

  • Allows people to manage their feelings and responses in a regulated manner. 
  • It builds the capacity to navigate life and all its challenges, whether personal or in the workplace with the right attitude and excitement.
  • Is the ability to manage stressors and the curveballs of everyday existence, improve distress tolerance and remain resilient while remaining enthusiastic and solution-driven.

Coaching, being a facilitative approach, helps in unlocking barriers that stand in the way of an employee’s success. It is a non-judgmental way to empower those around us and elicit the strengths and knowledge of the people.

  • Coaching creates equitable, supportive, and human workplaces

Good health is not the absence of disease. It is, instead, a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.

Since employees spend most of their time at work, organizations have to work out ways to create equitable, safe, supportive, and human workplaces where employees are valued with all their challenges. 

Coaching is a great tool to build trust and equity in the workplace and can be used to build critical skills in colleagues, managers, and leaders. It works well to identify unconscious biases and limiting beliefs that impede equity and inclusion and build stress and disconnect.

Coaching also provides people the resources they need to bring in greater balance, close skills gaps, and gain a deeper understanding. All of these contribute to the better mental health of employees since they do not remain ‘stuck’ in feelings, problems, or situations.

  • Coaching improves career pathing initiatives

One of the biggest fears and causes of stress over the past two years has been worries of an uncertain future. Employees want to do good work but also want greater flexibility in their life. They want greater purpose and want to work with organizations that not only are good but are invested in their employee’s development plans.

Fine-tuning career pathing initiatives as development pathways through coaching provides great opportunities for organizations to show investment and interest in employees. Through coaching, career development initiatives become more holistic and impactful. 

The constant involvement of the coach to identify and eliminate limiting beliefs and other barriers deliver transformational enablement to the employees. These not only drive-up performance but also ensure that the employee is excited and in a good headspace to work.

  • Coaching improves belonging 

Millennials and Gen Z now constitute the dominant demographic in the workforce. 

This generation places great importance on mental health, is willing to talk about mental health challenges, and wants to work with organizations that speak the same language.

Managers and leaders can use coaching as a great tool to build a sense of belonging and create an open environment that helps their workforce not just survive, but thrive. 

Using coaching as a management strategy, managers and leaders can help alleviate feelings that negatively impact mental health. It improves communication between managers and teams, can provide greater clarity on how to translate expected outcomes into action, and improve work security.

Managers and leaders can leverage coaching to improve the outcomes of development opportunities and help their team members manage work stress with resilience. Adopting a coaching mindset and developing an internal coaching culture allows organizations to build lasting relationships with their employees, help the employees feel heard, and elevate their sense of belonging.

It establishes the psychological safety that employees won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. It creates a positive team climate where employees value one another’s contributions, and care about one another’s well-being. Since leaders have the strongest influence on a team’s psychological safety, creating this environment rests with them. 

Coaching enables leaders to learn the right behaviors that enable them to listen and respond with compassion and build belonging in the workplace.

All of these elevate mental health in the workplace by helping employees feel safe and less anxious and by increasing the sense of belonging.

Leadership needs coaching for mental wellbeing

According to Development Dimensions International’s 2021 Global Leadership Forecast, 60% of leaders feel used up by the end of their workday. 26% of the same leaders revealed that they anticipated leaving their company within the year.

Leadership needs to walk the talk to encourage people to take charge of their mental health. Coaching leaders helps them understand the importance of mental health and allows them to accrue crucial skills like empathy and understanding for others, and themselves. 

It teaches them to recognize their unconscious biases that lead to stresses that impact mental health – these could be identifying limiting beliefs and conditionings that equate strength with the capacity to bear suffering or lower empathy and understanding.

Leadership coaching to develop critical skills like empathy, understanding, non-judgment strategic thinking, problem-solving, etc. help leaders manage the stressors that impact mental health. It also showcases leadership taking charge of their mental health and establishes intent to help employees prioritize their mental health with transparency.

Creating a human-centered work culture that moves away from burnout-causing ‘always-on’ culture is the need of the hour. The old ways of working are no longer relevant as we move into the future of work with hybrid workplaces. As such, making mental health a part of the return-to-work plan is now crucial. And coaching will be a critical tool for this.

As cases of burnout increase across enterprises, organizations must create pathways to help employees prioritize their mental well-being. Coaching is the silver bullet that gives employees the resources and tools to manage stress, improve focus, strengthen connections, and improve overall well-being. Employees and organizations then don’t have to pick between career growth/productivity and health.

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