A Thought Piece by Heather Rowe 25 August 2017

Although I’m a big advocate of working together to support one another to maintain good mental health, according to The Prince’s Trust 2016 national survey, only 11% of employees in the UK feel comfortable talking to their line managers about their own mental health.

Previously I’ve written about personal coping strategies, but as the importance of mental health continues to grow, and people (hopefully) feel more confident about speaking up, employers, particularly line managers, have an important role to play.

The important role that line managers must play

Line managers are as important as ordinary work colleagues and friends in promoting mental health awareness and shifting any stigma that is attached to talking about mental health, particularly as they are responsible for implementing policies and supporting employees in their return to work following absence.

Mental health can be a difficult subject for line managers to talk about with employees as no one wants to offend or say the wrong thing. The difficulty is that mental health is not a tangible or visible thing, like a physical injury is, but if we look hard enough there are signs that you can look out for, especially as our mental state will affect our physical wellbeing too.

How can managers help?

To do this it is important to take time to know your staff and their different personalities. Be mindful of workload when delegating work, particularly if someone is taking on more work and staying later in the office. Your role is managing team relations and making sure that any issues raised by team members are dealt with quickly.

If someone or something doesn’t quite look right then talk to them. Make use of flexible working, and make sure that your team is taking annual leave. Most importantly don’t be afraid to seek external support if you feel it is needed.

By having that initial talk and through ongoing conversation we can minimise issue escalation. Remember that it is more reassuring to have an approachable manager who encourages discussion around mental health than one who sweeps it under the carpet. As I’ve said before prevention and a proactive approach is key to ensuring that the workplace is somewhere that contributes to employee wellbeing.

Lego leading the way?!

We all have our part to play but if you need a bit more encouragement visit www.thementalblocks.com which uses Lego to construct different workplace scenarios and lists suggestions on how you can support your employees at work.

This year World Mental Health Awareness Day is on 10 October and will focus on ‘Mental Health at Work’, so watch this space for updates on how you can get involved.

As always, please get in touch if you have any questions, comments or suggestions!

Heather Rowe is E-ACT’s HR Administrator and our resident well-being expert. Her blog pieces will be published here fortnightly, so keep your eyes peeled. You can contact her by clicking here.