How line managers can help identify mental health issues in the workplace
- 5 Min Read
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Improving mental wellbeing has become the main focus for organizations’ wellbeing activities, especially as it is the most common cause of long-term absence. Moreover, with reports showing that stress is one of the main causes of short- and […]
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Improving mental wellbeing has become the main focus for organizations’ wellbeing activities, especially as it is the most common cause of long-term absence. Moreover, with reports showing that stress is one of the main causes of short- and long-term absence in the workplace, and management style identified as one of the most common causes of workplace stress, the importance of effective management practices and training has gained further prominence. Therefore, it is more important than ever for employers to support their employees’ mental wellbeing, and one key way to do this is through line management training.
Indeed, the NICE guidelines highlight the significance of equipping line managers with the necessary skills and support, to support them to effectively handle discussions about mental health as part of their line management duties. Such training is particularly important, as line managers are often the first point of contact for employees who are experiencing mental health issues.
Spotting the signs of poor mental health
One of the most important things line managers can do is to learn how to spot the signs of poor mental health in their team members. This can be difficult, as mental health issues can be hard to identify and can manifest in different ways for different people. However, there are some common signs to look out for, including:
- Changes in behaviour, such as increased irritability, increased levels of stress, withdrawal from social situations, or a lack of motivation.
- Changes in appearance, such as a lack of personal hygiene or a dishevelled appearance.
- Changes in performance, such as a decrease in productivity or quality of work, an increase in absenteeism, or signs of presenteeism.
- Changes in communication, such as difficulty concentrating, increased forgetfulness, or a lack of engagement in team meetings.
If a line manager notices any of these signs in anyone within their team, it is important to approach the situation with empathy, sensitivity and compassion. Mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or job role.
Creating a supportive environment
The ability to create a supportive environment can help ensure that the team member feels comfortable talking about their mental health, and that they know they will be supported if they need help. Several ways a line managers can create a supportive environment, include:
- Encouraging open communication: by creating an open and supportive culture, line managers can encourage team members to speak up about any mental health concerns they may have.
- Offering flexibility: providing flexibility in terms of work hours or workload can be a great way to support team members who are experiencing mental health issues.
- Signposting to support services: line managers should be aware of the mental health support services available to their team members, and should be prepared to signpost them to these services if needed.
Line management training
Line management training can guide line managers to both manage their own stress and create a supportive environment for their team members. Such training typically covers topics which include:
- The importance of mental health awareness in the workplace.
- The role of resilience in helping to promote mental wellbeing.
- The signs and symptoms of common mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and burnout.
- How to approach team members who may be experiencing mental health issues and show empathy.
- How to create a supportive environment for team members who are experiencing mental health issues.
- The importance of understanding and developing self-care skills and keeping engaged with others, both in work and in the greater community.
Line management training can be delivered in a variety of formats, including face-to-face training, online training, and coaching. Very often, line managers might be the first to spot signs of increased stress or mental poor health, and their early intervention may help problems before they potentially escalate. It is important to choose a format that is tailored to your organization and your line managers’ needs. Accordingly, Mercer helps organizations identify the best suited line management training, with a dedicated team of clinicians in their Workplace Health Consulting division.
The role of employers
From an organizational level, several actions can be taken to reduce stress levels and help improve mental health across the workforce, which include:
- gain feedback from line managers to understand what they need to feel more confident in the workplace when it comes to supporting colleagues with their mental health.
- provide line managers with tailored training to meet their own needs.
- provide to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), to support all employees.
- provide mental health awareness training to all employees, in addition to health and safety training.
- conduct routine employee listening polls to track the impact of training across the entire workforce.
Most importantly, by providing line managers with tailored training that allows them to develop skills and knowledge needed to identify and support team members who are experiencing mental health issues, employers can help create a supportive organizational culture that benefits all their employees.
Organizations can take a variety steps to reduce workplace stress and improve mental wellbeing, whereby line management training plays an instrumental role. However, a tailored approach to line management training can help organizations better ensure they are helping all their employees, while also optimising their invested time and training resources.