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Supporting mental health in the workplace

Supporting mental health in the workplace is an ever increasing priority for employers. With at least 1 in 4 people experiencing some kind of mental health problem each year, managing and offering support is vital. In this article, we’re going to offer you some practical tips and steps that you can follow to identify mental ill-health in your workplace and to help you make sure you can fully support your employees.

You will learn

  • How you can spot the signs of mental ill-health in your workplace
  • Idea for creating an accepting business culture
  • Places to go for more support

Spot the signs of mental ill-health

There are many signals your employees can give that will show you they’re struggling even if they don’t come to you directly. Keep your eye out for these key signs:

  • Are they irritable, overly sensitive to criticism, or acting out of character?
  • Are they struggling to make decisions or having problems concentrating?
  • Are they making more mistakes than normal or has their performance dropped significantly?
  • Do they look tired, stopped making as much effort with their appearance, have they rapidly gained or lost weight or seem to always have a cold?

You should also look out for people who are working longer hours than normal, or if they’ve started taking lots of sick days, as well as monitoring the motivation and productivity levels in your work space. These are all key identifiers of mental ill-health in your workplace and you should consider checking on your employee’s wellbeing if you see them displaying any of these characteristics. Even if there is no underlying mental health condition, they’ll appreciate the offer of support.

Put mental health on your agenda

By bringing the mental wellbeing of your staff on to your priority list, you’ll make sure that you make positive changes to raise awareness and support your staff. Make a conscious effort to promote healthy working practices and create a culture of acceptance within your business to any member of staff who might be managing a mental health condition.

Lead by example

You and any managers you have in your business will need to lead by example. You might want to offer training to help them recognise early signs of a mental health condition and should work together to create a strategy to support the affected members of staff. Often, people feel uncomfortable managing a situation with staff concerning mental health for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, so building their confidence and understanding is key to supporting mental health in the workplace.

Check out our tips for effective staff management if you’d like a little more guidance on interacting with your team.

Create an open business culture

If you can create a business culture where mental health is openly acknowledged and not stigmatised, your employees will be much happier and more open about their wellbeing in your workplace. It will also likely lead to an increase in the reputation of your business, as you’ll be recognised as a great employer.

Encourage open communication at all levels in your business and ensure that your employees feel able to take a break if they need one. Allow your employees to take occasional “mental health days” as part of, or in addition to, their sick leave so they know they’re able to take time off if they need to without fear of repercussions when they return.

By making it known that you’re just as supportive to mental ill-health as you are physical ill-health, you’ll be able to develop an open and healthy work space for your employees.

Have a clear mental health at work plan in place

Ensuring that your employees have clear knowledge of what they can expect from you if they develop a mental health condition can be incredibly effective. By setting out transparent support structures for your staff, they can feel confident that they will be treated with dignity and respect if they choose to open up to you.

Spend some time considering what support you can offer employees, whether it’s the time off they need to get well, or you might be in a position to offer a set amount of counselling sessions to them to support their recovery.

You can also create a Wellness Action Plan with your employee to help them manage their condition and rebuild their confidence in your workplace. Mind have a great guide that you can use to help create these plans with your staff. Check it out here.

Encourage breaks

Time away from the job can do wonders for increasing the mental wellbeing of all your employees. Having regular breaks from the computer screen, warehouse floor, or till are invaluable. It helps to reduce stress, and can actually improve productivity and motivation in the long run.

Review job descriptions

Are your staff doing the roles they agreed to when they started working for you? Review their job descriptions and make sure they include clear and realistic expectations for the role. Uncertain or ambiguous job roles or overloading your staff can lead to stress and other mental health conditions.

Use your 1-1s

You should be having regular meetings with your staff to make sure you both know what projects are being worked on, how performance is progressing, and to raise any concerns either of you have. Use this as a space to open up conversations about mental wellbeing and ensure that all your employees have access to the right levels of support.

Take a look at our top tips for having great one to ones with your staff here.

Further resources

Supporting mental health in the workplace will be an on-going process and you’ll need to make sure that you’re always offering the best support you can to your employees. Here are a few more resources that you can use to boost your knowledge and help your staff.

The Health and Safety Executive have clear standards that you can follow to help manage employee stress in the workplace.

Mind have lots of great resources that you can access to support your staff and improve your knowledge of supporting mental health in the workplace.

Fit for Work can offers expert and impartial advice to help you manage health in the workplace.

Mental Health First Aid is an educational course that will help you identify, understand and support employees developing or managing a mental health condition.


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Written by:

Lorraine Hamilton

Training Co-Ordinator for Mindworks

Email Address:

Telephone: 01482 240200 or 07792 924316