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InfoQ Homepage News Training Your Managers to Support the Mental Health of Your Team

Training Your Managers to Support the Mental Health of Your Team

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We still do not offer clear advice for our organisations and managers on the best ways to raise awareness of and manage mental health in the workplace, according to a recent review of the literature on mental health awareness training by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).

Compared with only a decade ago, the ease with which most modern workplaces now embrace serious and empathetic conversations about mental health is a cause for celebration. This is not to declare the struggle against ignorance and stigma to be over, by any means, and there is so much more to do.

The review discovered there is not enough research to verify the best ways to create medium to long-term improvement in mental health awareness, and the best ways for managers to triage this with their staff. This has led them to start their own randomised trial to attempt to answer this question. Stephen Bevan, IES head of HR research development, and Sally Wilson, IES senior research fellow, wrote an article explaining their concerns.

Agile and digital transformations have brought a focus on individual and team psychology in the workplace. Many managers have now heard of Thinking Fast and Slow and Drive, both highlighting the importance of psychology for team performance. A quick look at the front page of talks from Agile2019 quickly shows the emphasis on the physical and mental health of our people and teams in the technology industry. Three titles quickly stand out: "Empathy: A Keystone Leadership Habit", "My So-Called Agile Life (as seen through my Fitbit)", and "More about Thinking Fast and Slow".

There is also a noticeable increase in mental health focus from governments around the world, often as part of workplace health and safety legislation. Within the UK, the government commissioned an independent review of mental health in the workplace which identified effective people management as a core standard that organisations should meet.

The IES is concerned that Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a popular mental-health training concept, did not have enough research to justify its popularity and use in the UK, especially since it might be legislated within the UK.

The IES is currently running a randomised assessment of line-manager training options to see if other forms of mental health awareness and triage training will give better medium to long-term results.

The response from Nataly Bovopoulos, former CEO of MHFA, admits that more research is needed but recommends that MHFA can provide proven gains in the ability and knowledge of managers to deal with mental health issues, at least in the short-term. She states that MHFA:

leads to participants having better knowledge, skills and attitudes and much of this is sustained six months after training. Participants also report having used their skills to help people they’ve been concerned about.

InfoQ will continue to follow this ongoing research as we believe this is highly applicable to the Agile and digital movements, focusing on the best ways to create high-performance workspaces and processes which put teams and individuals first.

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