How to support employees with their mental health

I am so pleased you’re here because learning more about supporting your staff with their mental health is hugely beneficial for both your employees and also for your business growth.

There has been a positive shift in how organizations and leaders approach mental health with their staff. I can’t say that mental health stigma no longer exists, but there’s certainly more openness and conversation about it.   

However, we still have a long way to go. Half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have left their roles for mental health reasons and during the pandemic, almost 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of depression or anxiety

The importance of mental health in the workplace

If you make mental health and well-being a priority in your business, you should see: 

  • Happier, healthier, and more productive staff
  • Less absenteeism 
  • A decrease in staff turnover. 

In this blog post, I’m going to tell you exactly how to support your staff with their mental health. 

1. Create a culture in the business where it’s okay to talk about mental health

One of the biggest issues I encounter when I work with organizations is the lack of conversation around mental health. 

Companies often rely on their staff to raise mental health issues with their leaders, but unfortunately, this isn’t enough. Even if you’re incredibly supportive to an employee who is suffering from mental health issues, you’re still reliant on them making the first move to talk about it. 

This is a difficult burden for employees who feel fearful or ashamed of their mental health problems. If they are depressed or anxious, they might not have the confidence to speak about it. They may also feel worried about what will happen if they do talk about it—will it impact their job? Will they be less favorable for a promotion? Will others view them differently? 

Leaders need to talk about mental health first

This is why it’s the responsibility of leaders to create a culture where employees are encouraged to talk about their mental health.

Leaders could start by addressing all of their employees as a group to discuss mental health in the workplace. In this discussion, they could talk about:

  1. The number of people who struggle with their mental health (to help normalize it)
  2. The different kinds of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, burnout, and stress 
  3. What the symptoms of mental health problems look like, and how to identify them in colleagues 
  4. How employees can seek help internally with their mental health issues, such as booking a 1-2-1 appointment with their manager. 

It’s all about inviting them in, rather than waiting for them to knock on your door. 

Don’t just keep this to a ‘one-time’ occurrence either. Leaders should take the opportunity to ‘check in’ with staff often. For example, during staff evaluations leaders shouldn’t just dive right into what the staff member has achieved or where they can improve. They should genuinely ask staff how they are and encourage an open conversation. 

2. Have 1-2-1 conversations about mental health with staff

Once leaders start talking about mental health more, they should find that staff want to talk to them 1-2-1 about any issues they are experiencing. 

This is a good thing. This means that you’ve fostered a culture where staff feel comfortable talking to management about their mental health issues. 

This can, however, feel overwhelming or uncomfortable for managers and leaders, particularly if they aren’t used to having conversations around mental health. 

If you’re reading this and feel this way, please know that you are not alone—many leaders also feel the same. 

But also know that having conversations with staff about their mental health is not complex. Leaders don’t have to be trained psychologists or mental health professionals. Of course, there are times when a professional mental health expert is needed. But, in the first instance, when a member of staff approaches management, leaders need to remember to follow these simple rules:

Step One: Encourage employees to talk about their mental well-being

If someone books an appointment with their manager to discuss their mental health, they might still need some encouragement to talk about it. 

Employees may get to their appointment and want to brush off their concerns or state that they are ‘fine’. However, it’s a leader’s job here to ask open-ended questions to get the employee to feel at ease. 

It’s only when employees are honest about their problems that support can be put into place. 

Step Two: Listen to employees about their mental health concerns

This may sound simple, but listening and giving someone space to talk is crucial. Leaders often make the mistake of ‘jumping in’ and ‘fixing’ the problem. Fixing problems is often what leaders do in their professional day-to-day, and it’s an understandable reaction, particularly when presented with someone who is struggling. 

Try to refrain from the ‘jump in and fix’ method straight away. Let the employee talk about their issues. The leader should ask follow-up questions to try to gain a full understanding of what the employee is experiencing. 

Step Three: Create an action plan together  

Once the employee has discussed their problems and the leader has gained a full understanding of them, it’s time to put an action plan together. And when I say together, I mean together! 

A lot of employees will already have an idea of what support they need, and this tends to be quite straightforward and affordable. In my experience, the majority of employees only require small changes from the business (but ones that make a big difference to them). 

It’s therefore good for leaders to ask employees what they need and come up with a support plan with them. Of course, leadership will have to balance the business requirements with their employee’s support, but often, there are changes you can introduce easily. 

Following these simple rules is usually enough to provide support to an employee who is struggling with their mental health. A productive meeting like this with their manager will make employees feel relieved and appreciated by their company. This goes a long way to improving their mental well-being and, from a business point of view, preventing staff turnover or absenteeism. 

What to do when an employee needs more support with their mental health

Sometimes, following these conversations, leaders may feel concerned that an employee needs more support. As I said earlier, leaders are not mental health professionals—nor should they be—but it’s important they have a full understanding of the support available within their organization so they can recommend the right mental health program for their staff, such as talk therapy, or encourage employees to seek external support, like speaking to their doctor. 

You can also direct employees to charities such as Mental Health America for helpful articles and resources. 

3. Communicate organizational changes clearly and in a timely manner 

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has brought us, it is uncertainty.
Many organizations have faced new challenges such as:

  • Staff working from home 
  • Staff coming back to the office after long periods of working from home 
  • New introduction of hybrid working 
  • An increase in staff sickness and absenteeism due to COVID-19. 

With businesses having had to adapt quickly to new rules, employee anxiety and stress has increased. All changes within an organization need to be communicated clearly with staff and in a timely manner. Of course, organizations will always have to change and adapt, but it’s vital to remember the impact this has on staff. Communicating changes clearly can help staff feel more secure and comfortable. 

4. Invest in mental health programs and training for employees

Investing in professional well-being services is not a replacement for a company culture that prioritizes mental health; however, it can make a real positive impact. 

There are many different types of workshops and programs available to organizations. For example, my employee well-being programs help support employees to:  

  • Manage anxiety and stress
  • Build resilience
  • Improve focus and clarity 
  • Get more quality sleep. 

Developing mental strength and wellness is a skill that can be learned by employees which will help them in both their personal and professional lives. This is why investing in well-being training, delivered by qualified professionals, can make a huge difference to the mental wellness of employees. 

5. Leaders also need to take care of their own mental health 

When I coach leaders, I often find they put their own mental health and well-being last. Leaders can often feel alone when it comes to their own mental health, especially if they don’t have their management to support them. 

Mental health training for employers 

But for leaders to support their employees with their mental health, it makes sense that leaders are mentally healthy too! The entire organization must commit to creating an open, honest environment around mental health.  

This is why emotional well-being programs and mindfulness workshops aimed at leaders are so popular and could be extremely beneficial to your organization. 

What are the next steps for your organization?  

I hope this has helped you. Remember the first step in any organization is to make sure employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health issues with leaders. Only then can leadership support their employees with their mental health. 

Finally, if you are looking for professional well-being and mindfulness support within your organization, feel free to contact me to discuss what you need. I am always happy to help.


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