Fair question. Last week we wrote about Nike’s decision to shut down its corporate headquarters for a week so its employees could “destress” and take care of their mental health.

To that, we believe Nike is devaluing the positive virtues of work. If you need to shut down your company for a week so your people can maintain their mental health, there must be something wrong with the experience of working there. You can read the whole thing here.

But while we hold that opinion, we also think it’s fair to address the question that some people may ask us: If that’s not the way to support employees’ mental health, what is? Here are some suggestions that you may try:

  1. Make sure your people are seen and heard. By which we mean: Everyone has concerns. Everyone needs things. Everyone wants to know they are respected and valued. A lot of companies will tell you, “Our people are our greatest asset!” OK. But do you treat them as people? Or do you treat them as assets?
  2. Don’t be so stingy about every little thing. Someone’s mom needs to be driven to the doctor. Someone’s brother isn’t feeling well and could use a phone call. Someone has a commitment and needs to duck out 10 or 15 minutes early. Hey! It’s work time! We can’t have that! Stop it. Make sure your people understand the responsibilities they have to meet by the end of the day, or the week, or the month – and hold them accountable for that, by all means. But this stuff? Let people take care of themselves.
  3. Respect people when they’re trying to make a difference. We had a situation recently in which a client unexpectedly asked for something that wasn’t simple to deliver, and we had a very short window of time to create it. Michelle had a very clear idea for how we could get it done. She was focused. She was exercising leadership, and it was definitely of the take-no-prisoners variety. Following her lead meant throwing out the plan for the morning and trusting her. There wasn’t time to demand an explanation of everything or to question whether this was really her job. Her plan worked. But only because her determination deserved respect – and got it.
  4. Tell people when you notice they’re learning or growing. Of course, this requires you to be paying attention. If people need to be told when they’re falling short in a certain area – and yes, that’s necessary – they should also be recognized when they’re making progress. And it should be made clear to them what the rewards will be if they keep making progress.
  5. Be willing to consider outside-the-box ideas for the workplace. We’ve written before about the Bible study we have here every morning. That’s time-consuming, and it takes some work to make it a good one. But it brings us closer to God and makes us better people, which in turn makes us a better and more productive team. It took some openness to even consider making this a regular part of our work day. It would have been easy to say, “We don’t have time for that!” We’re glad we didn’t say that. Don’t be so sure an idea, even if it seems implausible, can’t work.
  6. Be patient with people. Yes, you want the best performance. Yes, mistakes need to be addressed. Yes, accountability is crucial. But for crying out loud, give people room to work on themselves without making them feel like every little mistake is going to get them yelled at, or chastised, or shamed. Sometimes it’s harder than we’d like it to be for people to make progress or get to the next level. Are you helping them? Are you putting them in a position to succeed? Are you noting their progress and encouraging them to keep going? Yeah, we know. There are deadlines. The clients are waiting. Excellence is paramount. We agree with all that. Good teams get there by giving people every opportunity to grow through support and encouragement, not fear and pressure.

Treat people like this, and they’ll never want you to shut down the office because they’d miss coming in! Visit our web site at www.northstarwriters.com.