How Managers Can Support Employee Wellbeing

10th October 2023

Article by Meg Shona Halpin-Webster, Graduate eLearning Content Writer at Marshall E-Learning Consultancy, a Ciphr company

Today (10 October 2023) is World Mental Health Day and an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health problems that many are experiencing. Mind’s focus for this World Mental Health Day is to ensure that people have access to the right support to help them with poor mental health. Currently, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in England, with one in six reporting experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, in any given week.

As this year’s focus is ensuring that people have the right kind of support in place, it’s important to factor in how workplace environments, and managers, can contribute to maintaining positive mental health. MHFA England’s latest research found that poor mental health accounts for 51% of long-term sick leave due to stress, depression or anxiety, highlighting that the lack of support for employee wellbeing is having a detrimental impact on organisations.

Marshalls is committed to equipping organisations with the knowledge, tools and resources to provide effective mental wellbeing support to employees. As 70% of managers stated that organisational barriers, such as an unsupportive culture or company policy, prevented them from supporting their staff’s wellbeing, it’s crucial that organisations understand how they can prioritise and manage positive mental health across their environment with wellbeing conversations.

Why managers need to be aware of employee mental health

Paul Farmer, former CEO of Mind, outlined four key reasons why the mental health of staff is an essential consideration for managers and the wider organisation:

  1. Consideration is the right thing to do

There is a legal driver behind managers needing to be aware of employee mental health as every employer has a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employee under health and safety-related legislation. An employer’s responsibility to assess risks arising from hazards in the workplace environment also includes work-related mental health problems, such as stress or anxiety. Employers also have the responsibility to treat individuals experiencing mental health problems equally, because the Equality Act of 2010 states that employees with disabilities have the right to not be discriminated against because of their mental health.

  1. It’s good business sense

Employee engagement is a core component of a successful organisation. Workplaces thrive when employees are positively engaged with their mission, ethos and goals, but poor mental health can impact this. Organisation engagement is about being conscious and aware of employee wellbeing, and recognising that all employees must be equally respected, heard, involved, well-led and valued for them to perform at their best. Prioritise employee wellbeing and positive mental health through initiatives such as – flexible working, resilience training and offering greater staff development opportunities – all of which contribute to the cultivation of a good workplace environment.

  1. It promotes the value of a diverse workforce

Being a responsible employer involves actively promoting and supporting the positive mental health of employees. Considerate employers value the contribution of all employees across the workplace and must recognise the advantages that come with diverse recruitment and the retainment of a talented, multi-faceted, diverse workforce. This includes those employees who find themselves experiencing a mental health problem, or battles with poor mental health. These employees are still valuable to the workforce, and it’s the responsibility of managers to ensure that they feel this way.

  1. It boosts organisation productivity

An organisation can only thrive if the employees within it are thriving. By actively championing positive mental health, employers are underpinning wider organisational productivity. Through effective support and management of employee wellbeing, employers can ensure that their staff can reach their full potential and perform well for the organisation. If employers take measures to ensure the supported mental wellbeing of each individual employee, the organisation is likely to achieve peak performance.

Tips for managers approaching a wellbeing conversation

Consider the ALGEE acronym

ALGEE is a Mental Health First Aid acronym which stands for:

  • Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis
  • Listen and communicate without judgement
  • Give support and information
  • Encourage the individual to get professional help
  • Encourage other support

Considering this acronym can help you lay the foundation of a wellbeing conversation – the intent is to check in with your employee, not interrogate them into talking about personal details. Starting a wellbeing conversation can be difficult, as some individuals may not be aware that they have been showing signs of stress in their day-to-day work life. So it’s important to be conscious about your approach, and ensure that the employee feels respected and listened to.

Plan and prepare

In some cases, planning out your conversation and preparing questions or talking points may help you better approach a wellbeing conversation with an employee. Try planning a few open questions to ask as this style of question is better suited to this conversation, as they encourage reflective, personal answers and lead employees to feel listened to and safe.  Avoid direct, closed questions that can only be met with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses as they can often feel interrogative and intrusive.

If you are aiming to address certain behavioural changes, or signs, be sure to only mention the behaviour that you have personally seen. Do not imply to the individual that surrounding colleagues have been discussing their behaviour as this is likely to make someone feel stressed and vulnerable.

Use language that validates

During wellbeing conversations where an employee may be opening up about their current mental health or their experiences of a mental health problem, it’s important for them to feel validated and respected. As a manager, you can use validating language to show that you are listening to their experiences and are there to support them, not judge them. Examples of validating language include:

  • “That sounds really tough…”
  • ‘You’re going through a lot right now…”
  • “I can understand why you are feeling this way…”

Ask about their current support

Wellbeing conversations are a good opportunity to find out about the support that an employee currently has in place. Do they have a support system? Do they have someone that they can talk to? Do they have methods that help them improve their mental health?

Finding out this information helps you, as a manager, recognise what you can offer them as they navigate poor mental health. Be sure to provide information about the organisation’s available internal resources such as a counselling service or a support group, if you have any. If you do not, provide them with information about external resources and support they can reach out to, such Mind or the Samaritans.

How Marshalls can help you mark World Mental Health Day

Marshalls has developed an extensive range of wellbeing eLearning courses, covering important topics such as mental health awareness, managing positive mental health at work, mental health fatigue and stress management. These engaging and accessible wellbeing eLearning courses provide best practice approaches, step-by-step guidance and useful resources for an organisation to support employees, effectively promote positive mental health and wellbeing, and reduce the stigma of mental health problems.

To find out more about our wellbeing eLearning offering, or to find out more about how Marshalls can help your organisation increase its awareness and focus on mental health and wellbeing, please do get in touch.

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