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MaltaToday 30 October 2022

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 30 OCTOBER 2022 OPINION 11 Tania Camilleri Mental health: is it just a leader's responsibility? to decide the ultimate fate of that particular bay… for, which for the past 20 years, has been subject to an application to build [and this is just the latest of many attempts]: "a deluxe 5-star 170-bedroom hotel set on 9 floors with all facilities, 25 self-catering villas, 60 self-ca- tering apartments, 200 mul- ti-ownership accommodations consisting of apartments, mai- sonettes and bungalows, 731 underground car parking spac- es […], a chapel, administration offices, 3750 m squared total of commercial area, including 10 retail units and five dining facilities, [and] a yacht marina for up to 150 berths – depend- ing on the size of the vessels." This will not, of course, be the first time the PA board meets to discuss this issue (the same application was unanimously rejected, back in 2016.) But – in theory, at least – it should prove, either way, to be the last. A decision to grant the permit would, of course, transform the area into precisely what the 'Public Domains Act' was enacted to avoid, in the first place… leaving us with, quite frankly, nothing left to 'pro- tect'. Meanwhile, if the permit is rejected at next Thursday's appeals hearing, it would rep- resent the final verdict in an appeal: thus bringing closure to this long-drawn-out, 20-year saga. All along, however: it is a stage which we would quite simply never have reached at all… had the site been duly listed as 'Public Domain', as promised way back in 2016; when the law was (supposedly) enacted. But hey! Let's look on the bright side. At least, the 'Pub- lic Domain Act' DOES exist… if only on paper. And that's al- ready a lot more than I can say, for the present government's willingness to ever actually 'protect' any part of this coun- try, from the naked, rapacious greed of its own 'friends and associates'. MENTAL health at work comprises of the emotional, psychological, and social well-be- ing of employees. But just who is responsible for mental health in organisations? Although common for leaders to refer to how employees are "at the centre of work", of- tentimes this is said in the context of treating your employees well so that productivity fol- lows. However, where do leaders stand when it comes to the mental health of their employees? We are currently experiencing a shift in ex- pectations, wherein employees believe that leaders should not only support mental health, but they should also take responsibility for it. The latter places a significant onus on the leaders to put mental health on top of their agenda. This expectation is justified as leaders have the capability to create a positive working environment that promotes mental well-being and fun at work. This can be done through the provision of more autonomy, recognition, and connection. A leader may encourage more autonomy at work by building a culture based on trust. Em- ployees are given the space and freedom to de- cide how, when and where their work is done. Typical examples would be: (i) providing the opportunity to work re- motely on chosen days, and/or (ii) giving an element of flexibility when it comes to working hours. As a result, employees feel that they are in control of their workload and become more accountable for their work. Hence, the leader's role centres around empowering employees rather than micro-managing them. Recognition needs to be done in a meaningful way in order to have a positive impact on the employees' mental health. It can take the form of complimenting employees' behaviour, their team working disposition or simply by thank- ing them for performing daily tasks. Regular conversations are key for employees to feel appreciated. These conversations may serve to keep employees informed about any changes, but also for career development purposes. By engaging in such conversations, leaders show interest in their respective employees' opinion and project respect and dignity towards their team members. Employees also need to feel connected, and leaders can create a sense of belonging through communication and involvement. Ways on how to involve employees may include asking for their opinions on certain matters and/or by establishing working groups made up of em- ployees whose objective is to propose better modes of working. Moreover, leaders need to be trained to recognise any warning signs of emotional distress and offer the support need- ed. By implementing such practices at the work- place, leaders are shouldering the responsibil- ity of their employees' mental health. But who is taking care of the leaders' mental well-being? In reality, leaders themselves may need sup- port in this area so we cannot leave them out of the equation. We cannot just expect leaders to also be responsible for their own emotion- al, psychological, and social well-being. This is why organisations should implement initi- atives that focus on mental health awareness and early-intervention treatment from psy- chologists or other professionals. Such a ho- listic approach ensures that the organisation optimises on employees' future mental health. The author is developing and implementing a learning strategy based on Bank of Valletta's strategic and change initiatives, as well as to support employees' professional and personal development. She actively contributes to the skilling, reskilling, and upskilling initiatives so as to build capabilities across the organisation in a timely and cost-effective manner. Any views, assumptions or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Dr Tania Camilleri leads Bank of Valletta's Learning and Development Centre

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