How To Have A Conversation About Mental Health At Work

24th June 2019

According to recent research, 1 in 6.8 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace. This could be due to a variety of factors, with workplace stress, pressure and working conditions all playing a large part. Further research suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions, showing the rise in sick days for mental health.

Because mental health is now so commonplace in the workplace, it’s important to know not only how to recognise the signs of mental health issues in your team, but also how to approach a conversation surrounding the topic. It’s not uncommon for people to worry about how to best approach a conversion about mental health, however, there are no special skills you need! You know your team, and how to converse with them so just apply those skills to a different situation. If you think a member of your team may be suffering with their mental health, it’s important to raise this with them, as they may not feel comfortable enough to do so themselves. Use some of the tips below to start your conversion about mental health.


Picking the time and place to have the conversation is more important than you might think. Try and choose somewhere that is as private and quiet as possible, don’t try and have a chat in an area where other members of the team can listen in. Also, avoid busy environments which will only add stress and discomfort to the situation, try and make it feel as comfortable as possible. Perhaps you could take the chat outside of the workplace, over a coffee around the corner?

There Is No ‘Right Time’

Whilst picking a place to have a chat is easy enough, remember there’s never going to be a ‘right time’. Don’t make the situation feel forced and like the person has to talk about their mental health if they don’t feel comfortable to do so. However, by having an open workplace culture where people are encouraged to talk with no judgement, you’ll make this a lot easier.

Perhaps plan in general catch up sessions, and ask about how they’re doing overall. That way, you’ll make the situation feel much less formal, and less like an intrusive therapy session!

Take The Time To Listen & Reassure

It’s important to understand that mental health is a very sensitive topic, and some people will be less likely to want to talk about their mental health than others. Make your approach based on what you know about the individual and their personality, rather than going straight to talking about the problem. As a manager, you know the members of your team best to apply this in your approach. Even if people aren’t ready to talk straight away, make sure you reassure them, letting them know what support is available and tell them that they can chat to you about their mental health at any time.

Be Honest

Being open and honest is really important in this situation; you should bring up any concerns that you have, as well as encouraging the individual to talk about their situation. Whether you’ve noticed a change in attitude, performance or high absence levels, you should bring these up at this stage. Remember, you might be noticing changes in a person’s behaviour that they’re not aware of themselves, so treat this sensitivity.

Ensure Confidentiality

Above all, ensure confidentiality. Mental health conversations often involve sensitive information being bought up, and therefore this should be shared with as few people as possible. Make your team aware of the policies that are in place beforehand to make them feel more at ease.

Make An Action Plan

Based on your conversation, it’s important to put together a plan to work out the next steps you’re both going to take together. You should be able to identify the signs of a mental health problem, and both be aware of what triggers this and how this will impact the individual within the workplace. From here, you’ll be able to identify any workplace adjustments that need to be made, and particular support that needs to be put in place. You should also organise when the next time you’ll have a chat will be in order to review the changes that have been made.

Health & Wellbeing Programmes

If you have a work health and wellbeing program encourage your team to get involved. These programmes centred around workplace wellness measure, monitor and help to put the steps in place to help improve employees own health and wellness. When followed, they can help employees to be the best version of themselves both inside and outside of the workplace.

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