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Take action

Taking a proactive approach can help you through tough times in business. Planning to care for yourself as you would your financial or marketing strategy is important. How will you feel during the challenging times? What can you do?  Are you prepared?

Employees in a small or family enterprise often work closely together and know each other very well. It’s up to you, as the business owner, to create an environment that is a safe workplace both physically and mentally.

Self-care steps

Here are a number of ideas you can implement to care for yourself.

  1. Know that it’s normal to find business ownership tough. We all have similar experiences in business at different times.  You are not alone.
  2. Use your business knowledge to identify when you may feel more stressed than usual. For example, if you know your cash flow will be tight during a certain month or you’ll have a quiet sales period at a particular time. If you can anticipate these situations you can take action to remain resilient during these periods.
  3. Learn to identify your own signs of anxiety or stress. If a bad day has turned into a bad week or month, then it’s time to do something different.
  4. Incorporate some physical exercise in to your day. Going for a walk at lunchtime or hitting the gym before your work day begins is a great way to reduce stress and tension.
  5. Talk to someone. Seek out someone supportive who has an empathetic ear. This may be a partner, a relative or your doctor. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, call Lifeline or Beyondblue for a confidential chat. Reaching out to others is a proven method to boost your mental health at work.
  6. Stay connected to others. It’s important to maintain connections with others, especially if you’re a sole operator. This might be via your local business chamber events, your industry association or online business forums
  7. Use online resources. The tools available on the Heads Up website support mental health in the workplace. Black Dog and Sane have excellent resources too.
  8. Learn how to meditate or practice self-compassion techniques. Often it’s not realistic to down tools and take time off from the business, but taking some time out during stressful events can help restore your mental health balance.

Remember, if you or your employees need immediate help call:

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Helping your employees

It’s important to know how to support an employee’s mental health at work.  Mental health can be a delicate topic to discuss, however providing a safe work environment is the first step to supporting someone in need.

Consider the following proactive steps for your employees:

• Create a workplace where the importance of good mental health is openly discussed. Consider talking about good mental health at staff meetings or training sessions. Ask an expert to come in and talk to the team about workplace mental health strategies.

• Make resources and information available for employees to read or access at work. This can be information pamphlets in the staff room, posters in the workplace or quick dial numbers for external support. Free resources are available to order from Beyondblue.

• Host a mental health breakfast or support the ‘R U OK’ campaign in your workplace.

• Collaborate with your employees to develop a workplace mental health action plan. You can download a free template from the Heads Up website.

• Invite your team to join you on a lunch time walk or meditation session.

• Pay attention to the performance of your team. If you notice someone who does not seem themselves make time to talk to them in private. Remember, some employees may not want to disclose their situation to you. Don’t make assumptions about the problem or causes—ask open questions to learn how you might be able to help, without judgement. Make time to listen to the answers.

• Keep a list of referral sources to share with an employee who may need support. It is not your role to act as a counsellor, but rather to provide support and referral to someone trained to help. This may include a local doctor, counsellor, or national help line like Life Line or Beyondblue.

• Consider how you might provide workplace flexibility or remove workplace barriers that may be contributing to the situation.

• Remember to follow up with them to see how they are managing at work.

• Seek help if you are unsure about what to do or how you can help. Check the Heads Up website for guidance and support information.

Working with someone who is experiencing a mental health challenge is often easier when the workplace practices an open, non-judgemental approach to maintaining positive mental health at work.