Mental Health in Consultancy: How to Look out for Your Employees

23 Mar ‘23
5 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Clara Isabell Slawik
Consulting can kickstart your career (you’ll gain lots of experience, develop rapidly, build a good network and learn to navigate the industry) but this is accompanied by a heavy workload, performance pressure and long working days. And that takes its toll on your mental well-being.


How can you as an HR professional or manager look out for the well-being of your colleagues in such a performance-driven environment?


Mental well-being and consulting


Consulting attracts driven and ambitious people. People who like working in fast-paced, dynamic environments; those who want to develop quickly and to prove themselves. The so-called high achievers.


But in these same performance-driven environments, you often see that work and results are prioritised over mental and physical well-being.


This causes people to overstep their boundaries, overperform, and to work long hours without looking after themselves.
This can lead to psychological stress, exhaustion and difficulty making even the smallest decisions. And, in the long run, this will result in absenteeism and a high turnover of staff. That’s not good news for anybody.


90 per cent of people think that coming forward about mental health challenges will damage their career prospects.


From performance-driven to people-driven


Within the hierarchical structures and up-or-out systems of consultancy firms, mental well-being is often neglected. And this needs to change. Because working hard, performing well and ambition don’t have to go hand in hand with stress, burnout and absenteeism.


It’s not that high achievers need to tone themselves down or adjust their goals. It’s not even that you as a company can’t focus on good results and targets.


It means that you as an HR or People professional will want to take a good look at the culture within your organisation and the leadership you have in place.


Along with results, is there also an emphasis on the human aspect of working? Can people talk openly about their challenges at work? And is there a sense of psychological safety within teams and the organisation as a whole?


How to support your employees


A performance-driven environment is an environment where workloads are high and a lot is expected from employees, both in terms of time and energy. That’s not likely to change any time soon and that’s okay.


But, for this reason, it’s important that you equip your employees with the correct tools to handle the workload and performance pressure within existing frameworks. By doing this, you’ll create a culture where people feel safe to talk openly about their challenges and to come forward if things aren’t going well.


You can do this by refining the culture and encouraging leaders to put focus into the mental well-being of your staff. Psychologist Clara Isabell Slawik advises:



1. Create an open work culture


A work culture where people can speak openly about their thoughts, feelings and challenges is healthy. It helps people to feel good and means that they’ll be more likely to stay at the company long-term.


In an open culture, people feel free to be themselves and to speak up about things that are bothering them. This is particularly important because this openness ensures mutual trust and understanding.


In order to build an open work culture, it’s important that you understand and validate how your employees are feeling and what they need (such as feeling seen and heard).


For instance, it’s normal to feel stressed at work. But acknowledging that and proactively asking how you can support your employees here makes all the difference. A difference that people feel.


In order to fully incorporate mental well-being into the culture, you need to raise the topic regularly and proactively. Talking about it once isn’t enough. By regularly asking questions, offering the appropriate tools and solutions, and organising educational and inspiring events, you’ll show that the business is committed and employees come first.


Get into the habit of talking about mental well-being – even if that perhaps feels a bit uncomfortable at first. It takes time and a lot of trust before people feel safe enough to open up. The same is true when it comes to developing a psychologically safeculture. It will take some time before employees feel the impact of this culture, trust it, and become part of it. Make it a pattern and the rest will follow in due course.



Further reading: How Work Culture and Mental Health Are Connected

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2. Have management set a good example



Managers and supervisors are at the forefront when it comes to promoting an open and healthy work culture.
How do they do this? By setting a good example and leading through actions By being role models.


Leading by example creates trust within a team, increases colleague productivity and engagement, and promotes a positive culture. When you set a good example, good things follow.


This means you should encourage the leadership team to regularly speak about workload and mental well-being, as well as taking breaks, setting boundaries and prioritising their own mental self-care.


By taking the lead here and being honest yourself – in team meetings and in one-to-one conversations – the topic becomes approachable and something anyone can discuss.


It opens up a conversation that often gets overlooked and gives employees the confidence to take breaks and to look after themselves.


Because if nobody talks about mental health and their challenges, it gives everyone the impression that they’re the only ones going through difficult things. Despite the fact that everyone deals with challenges and we can often relate to how other people are feeling.



Further reading: How to Engage Managers in Creating an Open Corporate Culture: 7 HR Tips




3. Offer the correct support



Unfortunately, we didn’t get lessons on resilience and stress management when we were at school. That means we have to try and teach ourselves whilst navigating our way through our busy lives.


As an employer, you can play an important role here. Offer your employees the appropriate tools to build mental resilience, develop self-confidence and ways to deal with stress.


This could include a range of things, including: in-house training sessions, coaching consultations with psychologists and mindfulness at work. There’s no one-size-fits-all and there doesn’t have to be: what people need is to feel supported and have the opportunity to work on their mental well-being when they need to.



4. Look out for each other



In the HR department, you don’t always know what’s going on in other teams. Often you’re only getting the tip of the iceberg, and even if you wanted to, you simply don’t have the time and resources to keep an eye on each individual employee.


Fortunately, you don’t have to if your colleagues know how to look out for each other, if they know how to recognise when somebody isn’t doing well and how they can support another person in a situation like this.


What’s more, this sense of community is also an important aspect of a healthy and positive workplace culture. Colleagues can sometimes feel quite distant from one another, which means they aren’t as open with each other as they’d like to be.


Offer training sessions on mental well-being to keep colleagues up-to-date and in-the-know.. Or appoint mental well-being champions or ambassadors who can keep an extra eye on things.




5. Talk about it (regularly)



Within big companies, there is often a range of resources available to help employees with their health. The downside is that employees aren’t always aware of this.


This means you need to communicate regularly about wellness at work and the tools and services available. Doing this will ensure that the topic and opportunities available are at the forefront of everyone’s mind and emphasise that it’s okay to be open.


 Want to know more about how we can help your organisation? 👉🏼 Our OpenUp psychologists are already supporting teams in over 1100 organisations across Europe.

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