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How can managers hold conversations with employees about mental health?

This year Time to Talk Day takes place on 3rd February 2022 and many employers will be using the day to facilitate conversations with colleagues about mental health and wellbeing, in order to create safe and productive places of work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that having open and routine conversations about mental health can have a positive impact on our ability to juggle our work and home lives. However, if an employee is unable or unwilling to share issues at work that are affecting their mental health (for example, they are more withdrawn, lacking confidence or absent more frequently), it is important for managers to be able to broach “the how are you” conversations about mental health.

In this blog, Employment Law Solicitor and our Chair of Trustees, Pip Galland, sets out five ways in which line managers can have positive wellbeing conversations:

  1. Managers must create a culture where people feel encouraged to talk.
    It’s important to create a workplace where conversations about mental health are normalised. Find space at the start of each meeting to ask employees how they are. Ensure that employees are confident that their personal information will be kept confidential and/or only shared with a small number of people to facilitate support.
  2. Don’t assume that you understand your employee’s mental health and how it manifests.
    Don’t try to guess what mental health symptoms an employee might have and how this affects them at work. Many employees are able to manage their mental health and perform their jobs to a high standard. Let your employees explain how they are in their own words by asking open and non-judgmental questions.
  3. Be honest with what you’re worried about.
    If you have specific grounds for concern, it’s important to address such issues at an early stage. Consider whether it is necessary to obtain occupational health advice on how best to facilitate the conversation. If the employee finds it difficult to talk about their mental health, make sure you let them know that your door is always open and revisit the conversation at a later date.
  4. Be prepared to respond flexibly.
    Workplace adjustments need not be costly or represent major changes to the employee’s job. Remember to set out what you have agreed and review the support measures in place to check that they’re working. This could include a changing work patterns, allowing time off, implementing a mentor or buddy system, changing targets, building in further resource, or extending deadlines.
  5. Signpost employees where to obtain further support.
    Remind employees that in addition to line management support, they have wider support across the organisation. This could be via your employee assistance programme, occupational health, HR, as well as through your Mental Health Champions or Mental Health First Aiders. There are also lots of external organisations including Bath Mind that have lots of resources available to support employees and line managers.

For further information about mental health resources for managers, workplace conversations or mental health training, please contact [email protected]

Posted on: 1st February 2022

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