Professionals are often promoted to leadership positions because they’re skilled, reliable and committed to the work. However, burnout can quickly occur when new managers try to maintain their usual workload while also taking on leadership responsibilities. The quicker they can establish a healthy balance for themselves, the sooner they’ll be able to model the same behaviour for their team.

When you’re being intentional about your own energy, there are two fundamental components to focus on: prioritization and delegation. Without one or both, you will lose bandwidth on the wrong tasks quickly, and if you’re stressed or panicked, that can cascade down to your team. If you can learn to demonstrate self-care and emotional regulation, it will help foster a team culture of safety, trust and workload sustainability.

Set clear expectations and connect to purpose.
One fairly straightforward influence on employees’ mental health is whether they have a clear picture of what success looks like and how their performance is evaluated. But what’s less straightforward is that they also need to understand how their work connects to the broader company strategy. It’s all about providing the right context. Let your team know that their influence doesn’t require having hands-on involvement in the biggest projects or initiatives. Then explain how the team’s project, and each person’s individual work or output, supports initiatives that drive your company’s goals.

Provide growth opportunities.
We all have a basic need for growth. Without it, we stagnate. Check in with your team members about their goals regularly. Let them know how they can get there and how you will support them. For example, you may be able to offer opportunities to lead a project, shadow someone on a different team or attend a training. It’s also important to remind everyone that growth isn’t necessarily linear and can develop in many different ways. In fact, the best way to learn and grow is often through failure. Aim to create space for your team to not only own new projects but have support if they fail. In an environment that balances elevated ownership without putting major initiatives at risk, you can all learn together.

Help team members navigate stress.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can keep us moving toward goals and help us grow. However, there’s a difference between the stress that keeps us going and the kind that activates our flight, fight or freeze response. It’s important to help your team understand the difference. Check in with your team members to see how they’re doing and whether they need support. This is especially crucial if they’re taking on stretch projects or have mentioned issues outside of work. If necessary, connect them with company or external resources that can help them with stress management.

Create a culture of belonging and psychological safety.
When we feel safe and surrounded by a community of supportive individuals, we often spend less energy worrying about our psychological safety. This allows us to focus on contributing our talents toward a common purpose. Ensure your team culture is one where people feel they can bring their full selves to work. Be open to new ideas, encourage questions and connect team members to each other for support. Make yourself available to help with task prioritization or problem-solving. If and when team members make mistakes, show them how to turn it into a learning opportunity.

Support a healthy work-life balance.
Sometimes employees need help creating boundaries at work, especially if they’re top performers. As a manager, you can offer support that encourages better balance. For example, make your expectations around working hours—and the need to stick to those boundaries—clear. If your team works 9 to 5, let them know that they don’t need to respond to emails after work hours. You might also suggest daily rituals that help your team adhere to those boundaries, such as completely unplugging at the end of the day, turning off notifications or even adopting a daily meditation practice to help with the transition to or from work.

Give choices.
Many aspects of work, like operational processes, are not a choice. But people thrive when they have autonomy. Consider how you can build a team culture that fulfills everyone’s need for freedom. For instance, you could involve your team members earlier in your planning process so they can provide input on the types of projects they’ll be working on.

As a manager, you have a wonderful opportunity to positively impact your team’s mental health and well-being. The key is to operate with empathy. Check in as both a boss and a human. Be as attuned to everyone’s emotional state as you are to their workload and offer ways to help. If you can position yourself as a supportive manager who cares about your people, you’ll make a positive impact on your team, culture and the overall success of your company.