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Managing Mental Health – Management Skills

Too often employees are scared to tell their manager about a mental health problem and so problems can spiral. A recent survey revealed that one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem had told their manager.

Once aware of health or potential disability information, employers have a legal duty to consider making reasonable adjustments.  They also have a general duty of care and responsibility for employee health. In practice, whether they have a formal diagnosis or not, adjustments should be considered to help all staff cope with their roles.

Employers and managers play a crucial role in the everyday well-being of staff. Have a think about your managers – are they:

  • Approachable and available, to encourage staff to talk to them if they are having problems?
  • Tailoring their management style to suit the needs of each staff member?
  • Monitoring staff workloads, setting realistic targets and being clear about priorities?
  • Having regular one-to-ones and catch-ups to check on how work is going, identifying upcoming challenges and what support may be required?

In addition to the above, a manager should have the confidence and knowledge to manage any mental health matters. Are your managers aware of:

  • The common signs and symptoms of mental ill health?
  • When and how to intervene, and how to approach that difficult conversation?
  • What additional support is available for the employee within the organisation?
  • How to signpost employees to external support?

Managers must be mindful of the signs that an employee is entering into a state of despair by recognising when someone is “out of sorts”, perhaps because of an emotional outburst, or because they have become increasingly withdrawn, forgetful, or error prone. It can also be helpful for managers to acknowledge and talk about their own emotions; for example, by admitting: “I’ve had a tough week this week, this and that happened, but I’m still here for anyone who needs to talk.”

The earlier a manager becomes aware that a team member is experiencing stress or anxiety causing mental ill health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it becoming more serious and provide support to help.

Organisations need to send a clear signal to staff that their mental health matters and being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is to explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health. Your employee handbook should have a wellbeing policy which clearly sets out the simple and practical ways that the organisation will improve mental wellbeing for all staff, tackle the causes of mental health problems and boost employee engagement.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting mental health in the workplace correct, then contact our trusted partners Greig Melville HR. Call 01324 628676 or email to see how they can solve your HR problems today.

Our content is correct at the date of publishing, but should not be taken as legal advice, and our articles don’t replace Risk Assessments. Armour will not be held accountable for any legal actions the reader may take.