Around one in every six employees experience a common mental health problem in any given week. Employers can do a huge amount to help employees in this situation, and line managers and team leaders are in a particularly good position to provide support.
But if mental health problems are not something you’ve had to deal with before, you may not feel confident in providing that support. Here are some tips to help you get started, which you may want to follow up with further reading and training around workplace mental health.
Talk openly about mental health
Openness around mental health has come a long way in recent years and we’re more open to talking about it than ever before. But there’s still work to be done, with only around one in eight employees willing to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager.
By encouraging people to talk about mental health in the workplace, you can help shape the culture, attitudes and behaviours towards mental health in your organisation. And by removing the stigma surrounding mental health, you can help your employees to feel comfortable enough to approach you, should they need to talk. So don’t be afraid to have those open and honest conversations.
Lead by example
Some of your team members might be afraid to speak up about their mental health problems for fear that it may be seen as a sign of weakness or failure. As an employer, line manager, team leader or colleague, you can set an example for those around you. When senior leaders share their own experiences of mental health, it can help to break the stigma and signal to others that it’s OK to be human. By showing that you understand, you may make it easier for them to ask for help and give them the courage to speak up.
Many of us have been affected by mental health in some way throughout our lives. Whether it’s a personal experience or someone you know who has been affected. It’s something we can all relate to. From relationships to families, pressures at work to worries at home – we all have good and bad days, successes and failures in life.
If someone at work is struggling, try to put yourself in their shoes. If you and others adopt this approach, you’ll build an empathetic culture and a sense of community. Your colleagues will know they’re part of an organisation that cares about their wellbeing – no matter what challenges life might throw at them.
Invest in training and education
Early intervention can play an important role in helping someone with a mental health problem in their recovery. Teaching managers how to spot the signs of mental health problems and offer support, means your employees will get the help they need as soon as possible. Providing training in mental health for all new and existing managers will ensure they have the confidence and skills to deal with these issues. So why not put your company at the forefront of addressing mental health at work, by investing in training and education for your employees?
Supporting your employees with their mental health means being there during both good and bad times. Think about how you can support your people on an ongoing basis to be at the top of their game. Letting your employees know what’s available to them, both inside and outside of work, is important.
If someone in your organisation is struggling with their mental health, you may need to look at adjustments that could help them. For instance, changes to their working environment or hours may help. You may need to encourage them to take time off when needed, or facilitate their return to work to help them recover.
1. Health matters: health and work. Public Health England. www.gov.uk, published 31 January 2019
2. Mental health toolkit for employers. Business in the Community & Public Health England. www.bitc.org.uk, updated January 2021 (PDF, 6.9 MB)