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8 ways managers can talk to people about their mental health at work

Sometimes employees may experience difficulties – so being able to talk about their mental health at work is important.

In a poll of over 2,000 UK employees and managers, it was found that 56% of employees had struggled with their mental health or wellbeing at some point and 80% said it impacted their work.

More than 67% also admitted they didn’t tell their employer. There are many reasons why: confidentiality, they didn’t think their employer could help or they feared it would harm their career.

Workplace culture where speaking openly about mental health is encouraged is key. It starts from the top down, with directors and management ensuring that everybody is comfortable to speak up. Create safe spaces where employees feel comfortable to reach out.

Support can go a long way to help someone cope during difficult times. If you have noticed a change in a person’s behaviour or if there is something that is causing concern, reach out and ask if they would like to talk. If they don’t want to talk, you could explain why you are concerned, and that you’re happy to talk if that would help and if they feel ready to do so at a later stage.

 

Here are some tips for opening the conversation and talking to people struggling with their mental health at work:

Set time aside in a non-judgmental space

It’s important to provide an open and safe space with no distractions.

Let them lead the discussion at their own pace

Don’t put pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about. Talking can take a lot of trust and courage: you might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.

Don’t try to diagnose

Try not to guess how they are feeling or suggest solutions to their issues.

Starter sentences

Open the conversation with ‘how you are feeling?’, explaining behaviour changes you have noticed. For example, ‘I’ve noticed that you don’t seem yourself.’ Give the person time and space to answer.

Talk about wellbeing

Ask if they find anything helpful for de-stressing: remember that everyone is different. You could mention the benefits of exercise, having a healthy diet and taking regular breaks, but don’t put pressure on them to make any changes they’re not ready to make.

Active listening.

There is a range of techniques that keep us present and engaged in a conversation. Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood the difficulties they are facing. Open body language is also important, as are eye contact, appropriate nods and gestures.

Use non-judgmental language

Often, people experiencing mental health difficulties can feel like there’s something ‘wrong’ with them, or they can feel like they are to blame. They may not want to talk to people because they feel like they will be a burden. Avoid phrases like ‘is something the matter with you?’, and instead, try ‘what’s going on in your life at the moment?’, or ‘do you know what might be making you feel like this?’. Bear in mind that they may not know; the reason isn’t always clear.

Suggest appropriate support

You might want to suggest that it could be helpful talking to their GP, a friend or a family member.  It may be useful to have a list of helplines and websites to hand.

The first attempt to reach out may not go as planned or perhaps they weren’t ready to talk. Stay available and keep checking in.

 

Offer employee counselling as a resource

Workplace counselling will always remain an important resource for organisations. It offers employees a safe, confidential place to talk about anything and to find a way forward – whatever the challenge. It can be an invaluable resource for managers, who can refer employees to counselling if they feel they need extra support.

We provide counselling to people online and over the phone anywhere in the UK. Face to face sessions are also available in our Cardiff centre. Find out more about our confidential employee counselling service

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