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Top tips for Line Managers: Mental Wellbeing
Mental Health Awareness Week took place in May and research from the Mental Health Foundation found that only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
We know that mental health is a big concern for employers, with the CIPD’s latest absence management survey reporting stress and mental health issues as among the biggest causes of absence from work.
A lot is now happening around raising awareness of mental health issues, but we know that line managers can struggle with knowing when and how to talk about mental health with their teams, whether the employee is off work, returning, or perhaps asking for adjustments to their job or workplace to support their mental wellbeing.
We offer some brief top tips for people managers, in handling cases where mental wellbeing is a key factor.
Know your role
You’ll never be an expert in someone’s mental wellbeing condition at work. You don’t need to be. Your role is to recognise early warning signs for those who may need support. A broad understanding of some of the most frequent mental ill health conditions will help you support them.
Bear in mind that anyone can become quite good at hiding signs due to the stigma attached to mental health. While you won’t always be able to spot everything, keep looking around you, be aware of how people are.
There are many different types of mental health conditions and it’s helpful to remember that individuals can be affected very differently by the same condition.
It’s also important to remember that many people with mental health conditions manage perfectly well through various methods and may not require any additional support at work.
Get talking at the outset. Having regular contact with someone who is experiencing a mental health problem can sometimes prove difficult. Especially when they’re absent from work. If you can talk and agree a way forward early on, it will make life easier for them and you. Making the time to have regular one to one conversations with your team, makes it more likely someone will feel comfortable to trust and talk openly to you.
Don’t be daunted. If someone fails to stay in touch while absent, or becomes reluctant to discuss their mental wellbeing with you, we can advise you on the best approach to take.
Remain open. Perhaps someone who is behaving in a different, or perhaps difficult, manner is experiencing some personal issues. Having an open conversation can give them the opportunity to share or ask for support.
Ask for support. There are many sources of advice and support for line managers to draw on, when they are supporting someone with a mental health issue. Websites such as timetochange.org, mind.org.uk and the headstogether.org.uk can be a great place to start as they have links to much more information. You may have access to an employee assistance program, or the opportunity to refer an employee for counselling support. Ultimately, taking the time to gather information and understand what resources you can access will help improve your confidence in talking about mental wellbeing with your team.
Do some research. It can be helpful to do some basic research on the person’s condition to support your understanding. It also helps to have information about their external support network. This can be vital for contact information should they become unwell at work.
Act fast. There may be times where you need to take action quickly, for example, if someone indicates they are feeling suicidal. Always seek medical emergency medical assistance in these situations.
Mental wellbeing can be one of the trickiest issues to identify, and even harder to resolve – not just for employers but also for individuals and medical professionals too. What we do know is that great conversations can play a big part in moving forwards, and help maximise the opportunity for us all to thrive at work.