In this first instalment of our line management blog post series, we’re looking at how companies can train line managers to increase their focus on their teams’ mental and physical health and wellbeing in order to improve workplace productivity.
We’ve all heard something along the lines of ‘a healthy employee is a happy employee’, and this couldn’t be more true. Irrespective of industry, employees are the backbone of any workplace. This means that prioritising your employees’ wellbeing is an investment that will always pay off.
When you take care of your employees, you ensure the long-term success of your organisation, and your line managers are key to the pursuit of this. Your employees’ mental and physical health and wellbeing directly impacts the organisation’s productivity levels, atmosphere, and success. Problems such as low morale, absenteeism, and low retention can become endemic to organisations where employees feel unsupported and stressed.
Wondering where to start? Effective policies for wellness-focused workplaces will need to:
- Illustrate how senior leadership can support line managers to create a workplace culture that prioritises the health and wellbeing of its employees.
- Outline frameworks and resources that can be adapted for line manager training.
- Highlight suggestions for effective employee management.
Building a Better Workplace Together: How Can Senior Leadership Empower Line Managers to Promote Employee Health and Wellbeing?
As team leaders and supervisors, line managers are the most immediate first point of contact for any problems or grievances within their teams. They must problem-solve for their team on a day-to-day basis.
In terms of health and wellbeing, this problem-solving could extend towards encouraging open dialogue between colleagues, creating safe spaces, and knowing when and how to refer team members to health professionals. It’s essential that senior leadership ensure that line managers are equipped to identify and help those who are struggling.
4 measures to put in place to drive a workplace culture of wellness
- 1. Incorporating health and wellbeing into the company ethos: every member of the organisation should be committed to a holistic goal of creating a safe, positive, and supportive environment for their colleagues. This goal should go hand-in-hand with business output as a Key Performance Indicator.
- 2. Leading by example: Senior leadership should make a concerted effort to be more attentive to the health and wellbeing of line managers. They should adopt an open-door policy to enable their colleagues to address any concerns with them with less awkwardness or anxiety. They should also create a well-researched list of resources for physical and/or mental health support so they’re prepared for any issues that might arise amongst their workforce.
- 3. Timely intervention: A colleague demonstrating signs of stress or illness should be helped immediately to avoid more serious issues down the line. If you have a concern, addressing the issue and providing the right support shouldn’t be delayed until after a project is completed or a deadline met, for example. Employee wellbeing should never be put off for another day.
- 4. Incorporating health into policy: The BITC (Business in the Community network) suggests that senior leadership should appoint a ‘Mental Health Champion’ from within the company to actively work on mental health policy. This Champion can then build a Mental Health Plan tailored to the needs of the organisation.  Alongside this, Thrive4Life recommend that a Physical Health Champion should also be appointed in order to ensure the employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are both being looked after. The two Champions could conduct research, gather employee feedback, and make health and wellbeing a top concern for the organisation.
How to Actively Commit To Health and Wellbeing: Adaptable Frameworks and Resources for Line Managers
Making a commitment to prioritise employee health and wellbeing means committing to a plan of action. This plan should involve management and team leaders adopting specific practices and promoting specific team behaviours that prioritise wellbeing for all staff members.
Thrive4Life help businesses by offering complementary strategy consultations to look at building accountability for employee mental and physical health.
The following are 5 general recommendations that will help you on your journey towards supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of staff:
- Create an active health and wellbeing company-wide strategy and plan.
- Develop a work culture that prioritises health and wellbeing.
- Promote openness about mental and physical health and wellbeing.
- Offer access to professional resources and tools relating to health and wellbeing.
- Increase data analysis and reporting relating to health matters.
But how should you go about transforming these guidelines into an easy-to-follow framework?
2. Line managers should also track their team’s pledge to health and wellbeing with project management tools. For example, more conversations about mental and physical health should be scheduled on a KPI sheet with responsible owners for each task. This is likely to increase the team’s overall accountability for deciding their own health and wellbeing goals. Furthermore, these measures will also help to keep line managers focused and on top of the initiative.
3. Line managers should encourage healthy habits. For example, line managers could bring in healthy snacks for their teams’ tea breaks. The wellbeing pledge mentioned earlier could also include reminders for everyone to keep hydrated, get some fresh air, and take regular breaks from their desks and screens.
4. Line managers should also instigate team-level initiatives relating to health and wellbeing, using professional resources to do so. For example, a fitness expert could hold a webinar on how exercise supports productivity and overall health and wellbeing. It’s important to allow employees time to participate without worrying about compromising on other work commitments or rearranging meetings, for example.
Effective Employee Management: Wellbeing and the Work Locus of Control (WLOC)
A ‘Locus of Control’ refers to one’s perception or beliefs about the level of control they have over events in their lives. In the workplace, this term refers specifically to the beliefs that an individual holds over how much control they have over their work life and career. This means that efforts to improve employees’ Work Loci of Control should be incorporated into line managers’ health and wellbeing commitments or pledges.
Why is the Work Locus of Control (WLOC) so important? 3 reasons why line managers should care about their employees’ WLOC:
- Research has highlighted the WLOC as an important factor in organisational behaviour.
In a study conducted by management experts in 2009, the WLOC was defined as the moderator between employee wellbeing and organisational commitment. In simple terms, employees’ commitment to the organisation they work for is determined by their WLOC.
- This study found that employees with a stronger sense of control over their careers and workplace environments could be identified as possessing an internal Work Locus of Control. Those who have an internal WLOC feel valued by their supervisors and are consequently more committed to their organisation. On the other hand, employees who possess an external Work Locus of Control often feel that their successes or failures are determined by their line manager’s subjective attitudes or opinions.
- The two WLOC can have very different impacts on the health and wellbeing of an individual. When employees encounter feelings of helplessness that are associated with an external Work Locus of Control, they are much more likely to experience mental and physical stress as they feel lost and unsupported. This means that their wellbeing is compromised. Alternatively, employees who feel stable in their work environments and have positive experiences with their supervisors attain an internal WLOC which boosts their confidence. Such employees are more comfortable and less stressed.
5 top tips for line managers:
1. When creating a wellbeing pledge, line managers should make sure they incorporate a focus on employee autonomy. This could be as simple as creating a roster of task leaders for different team projects.
2. Line managers should also try to be more transparent in their feedback mechanisms. For example, they could implement the usage of a bespoke review system to provide weekly feedback that focuses on an individual’s abilities and efforts.
3. Team goals and output should be made more explicit and more flexible. When goals are clearly communicated to employees, they’ll feel more in control of their workflow and output.
4. Individual efforts should be regularly validated via verbal praise and informal positive reinforcement. A pat on the back is always appreciated – if employees feel their efforts are being recognised, they’ll be much more likely to feel motivated to achieve more at work.
5. Line managers should also provide regular training opportunities for employee development. This will offer employees a greater sense of direction over their career trajectories.
In today’s fast-paced working environment, employees are constantly confronted with numerous challenges in both their professional and personal lives. Work-related stresses shouldn’t compound these challenges. Instead, employers should offer a nurturing environment that helps their employees thrive.
Think of line managers as asset managers; they must take special care to foster the growth of their most valuable assets: their team. By prioritising the physical and mental health of their team members, line managers can make a lasting impact on their employees’ wellbeing and the success of the wider business.
By following the aforementioned recommendations, line managers can learn how to structure and manage their commitment towards boosting employee health and wellbeing. After all, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and when you take care of your employees’ mental and physical health, they’ll take care of the business.
This is the first instalment of our line management training series.
– You can now read the second instalment; Building a Healthier Workplace: A Line Manager’s Approach to Employee Wellbeing.
- Mental Health Toolkit for Employers (2021). Business in the Community & Public Health England.
- The Mental Health at Work Commitment (2019). Mental Health at Work website.
- Locus of Control. Psychology Today (2023).
- Jain, A.K. et al., Employee Wellbeing, Control, and Organisational Commitment (2009). The Leadership and Development Journal vol. 30-3.
- Draper, A. The Relationship Between Locus of Control and Work Behaviour (2022). Business 2 Community: Workplace Culture.
- Kindness at Work. Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre.
Please note, these are external links away from the Thrive4Life website. We are not responsible for the content of external websites.