Do you offer mental health support to your franchisees? If you have more than six, statistics show that at least one of them battled a mental health problem last week. Here’s some ways to offer positive, proactive support.
Franchisors are great at training and mentoring their franchisees. While training is part of your obligations as a franchisor, it’s also an appeal of franchising – growing your network, supporting others and sharpening your own leadership skills.
Your training likely covers business management and brand building. But does your franchise package offer mental health support too? If not, it should.
Are mental health problems common?
One in six people in the UK experienced a common mental health problem in the last week, according to the UK Mental Health Foundation. This prevalence means it likely included someone you know. Or it will include someone you know this week.
Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden globally – causing an estimated 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds. Mental health is deteriorating rapidly today, in part due to growing economic pressures, a bombardment of bad news, addictive social media platforms and technology that can promote an always-on work culture.
Why franchisees need mental health support
Think back to when you first started your business. How did you handle it? It was likely an exhilarating and terrifying time, filled with mistakes that taught you and obstacles that challenged you. It’s probably still like that.
On top of worldly and personal pressures, many of your franchisees are feeling scared at this business opportunity. They’re first-time business owners, sometimes with no background in your industry. If they’ve come from a comfortable job, or are a breadwinner, this can be a particularly stressful time. They might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome or have a fear of failure.
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Your franchisees, especially the newer ones, will also be tired. Starting a franchise is hard work, often requiring long hours and a disrupted lifestyle or income at first. It’s easy for new franchisees to burn out quickly, because all of a sudden, the weight of running a successful business is on them. While your proven business model and support helps minimise the risk, they’re determined not to be a weak link.
Some will handle the pressure better than others. Some will experience heavier mental health issues. And some might already have a pre-existing mental health condition, like depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder that can make days even more challenging. Either way, every franchisee will likely experience something – and you can help.
How to provide mental health support to your franchisees
There’s various ways you can take a positive, proactive approach to supporting the mental health of franchisees.
1. Set expectations and acknowledge the realities of franchisee life
When you’re recruiting franchisees, be honest and transparent about what challenges they can expect, both from the franchise and sector. Set expectations upfront and, when you see them going through the trenches, remind them it’s normal, expected and that they’re not alone. Sharing your own story as an entrepreneur can help them feel more at ease.
2. Introduce a monthly mental health check-in
It’s good to engage your franchisee network often. Include a mental health check-in as part of this, either through discussion or more private feedback mechanisms like surveys. Most businesses have business and client heath checks in place, so build one for your franchisees too. During tough times, acknowledge and validate people’s feelings. Ask if anything in the business contributes negatively to their mental health, then take appropriate action.
3. Learn to spot signs of stress and burnout
If your network is large, these can be general signs, but if it’s smaller you can get to know your franchisees more intimately. Demotivation, irritability, negativity and lack of focus can all be signs mental health needs tending to. Reach out with support when you spot the signs – and teach your franchisees how to recognise and respond to these signals too.
4. Make resources and training available
Driver Hire, a transport and logistics recruitment franchise, recognised that professional drivers are prone to mental health problems. “They work in an unpredictable environment – often on their own – where traffic conditions, the weather and tight delivery deadlines can all contribute to stress and fatigue,” says Richard Owen-Hughes, marketing director. To help, the franchise promotes a Five Steps to Wellbeing initiative for drivers. If you know the pressures, or even if you don’t, provide franchisees with appropriate training and support resources like this. Training can include how to look after wellbeing, achieving work-life balance, or learning to delegate to ease loads.
5. Set a healthy tone and culture
If you’re working long hours or sending emails outside office hours, your franchisees might feel compelled to do the same, compromising their work-life balance. Many franchises offer the benefit of flexible hours, but you can set the tone by modelling healthy habits, and creating an environment to talk openly about mental wellbeing. Leading by example, you can build a strong and supportive business network.
Break the stigma of mental health
With this support as part of your franchise package, you can help to break the many stigmas surrounding mental health.
When franchisees can talk openly and share, they will see first-hand how easily mental illness can manifest itself. This could help break the perception that mental health problems are only for the ‘weak of mind’. It will also help break the perception that addressing mental health in the workplace needs to be touchy-feely – about sharing feelings or coddling.
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Your efforts will build a more resilient workforce, armed with the tools, support and processes to face the toughest challenges. Those with existing mental illnesses will feel brave enough to put their hand up and ask for help on a bad day, instead of struggling through. Alerted, you can help them put solutions in place, which minimise disruptions and preserve wellbeing. Make absenteeism and sick leave part of your crisis contingency planning.
Like any business crisis, mental illness can rear its ugly head in unexpected times and ways. Emotional support for your franchisees is just as important as hands-on business training – and just as valuable. You’ll have happy franchisees that feel heard, and stick around for the long term.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©