Within a diverse workforce, various creative ideas can be shared. These ideas can boost profits, organization, efficiency and more within a business. On the other hand, having a diverse workforce also means supporting everyone’s unique challenges.
Employees can struggle when they feel open communication with leadership is inaccessible. Whether it’s communicating an incredible idea or admitting difficulties with work due to mental health battles.
The Open Journal of Business and Management conducted a study on open communication in the workplace. It revealed that open communication involves employees and management feeling secure in giving feedback, asking questions, exchanging ideas, and voicing concerns.
When communication is continuously understood and perceived without judgment, a company has open communication.
The same study recognized that maintaining open communication in the workplace not only forms strong relationships. It also increases organization because everyone can communicate goals and changes. It raises confidence with decision making and strengthens company culture by sharing perspectives on services or products.
However, achieving open communication is not as easy as it sounds. Open communication does not only rely on proximity to leadership—it also requires compassion. This is especially true in regards to communicating information that requires vulnerability.
The National Library of Medicine conducted a study that surveyed working adults in Ontario. According to it, eight to 10 per cent of the working population goes through a major depressive episode.
HRReporter explains that 27 per cent of Canadians wouldn’t even consider relaying a mental health struggle to leadership. RBC identified that 75 per cent of workers feel that not reporting their mental health struggles negatively impacts their work. This means Canadians are purposely resisting the urge to communicate their mental health concerns.
The same study found the most common barriers to communicating a mental illness include the fear of stigma, being treated differently and consequences to their career.
The National Library of Medicine’s study validates the fear of stigma. The misconception that mental illness is linked with violence and unpredictability has trickled into Canadian employers and employees’ minds.
As 64.2 per cent said they would be concerned about how the other person’s work would be affected. But only 19 per cent said they were concerned because they wanted to help.
Furthermore, trust is an important barrier to the fear of stigma. There must be trust in leadership to listen without judgment and take all ideas or concerns seriously. When employers are not truthful with their commitments, it creates an atmosphere of distrust. Thus, minimizing employees’ motivation to benefit the business they work for.
In addition, employers should organize employee-led discussion sessions to promote a safe work environment. These sessions can be dedicated to expressing ideas and brainstorming procedures to help employees when struggling. Or they can make space to list feedback and criticism.
This also contributes to the method of exploring different avenues of communication. Not every employee will be comfortable communicating through email. So, employers should incorporate a mixture of phone calls, video chat and face-to-face discussions.
Lastly, when employers lead discussions, they need to explain health holistically. Doing so makes it clear that mental health is just as important as physical health. Say, there’s a discussion on how the company policy provides services to deal with neck pain. The company should also mention how their policies and benefits help those with mental health disorders.
The National Library of Medicine’s study also found that, 50.3 per cent of Ontario workers said policies and procedures directed towards mental health support would be helpful when they disclose their mental health struggles.
Employees shouldn’t be fighting their fear of communication alone because management has control of creating a safe work environment.
Open communication requires consistent check-ins and reassurance. Just like with any conversation, it’s dependent on effort from both parties.
Grace Nelson-Gunness is a reporter for Business Hub. She enjoys watching Criminal Minds or reading a suspenseful horror-thriller novel while drinking a vanilla latte.