The Importance of Clear Conversations about Mental Health in the Workplace

Share This

Mental health is a critical issue in the workplace. One in two of us experience a mental illness throughout our lifetime, and one in five of us in any given year. This means that in a workplace of 100 employees, 20 of them will currently be experiencing a mental illness. Given this staggering statistic, it is concerning to see a large number of managers and leaders don’t know how to effectively address concerns in the workplace.

When employees are struggling with their mental health, it can have a significant impact on their work and the people around them. They may be less productivity, higher rates of absenteeism, presenteeism, errors and safety concerns.,. In some cases, mental ill-health may even lead to them leaving their job altogether.

It is crucial for leaders and managers to have skills to have conversations with their team about mental health, rather than view symptoms purely as a performance issue. These conversations can help to identify employees who are struggling, and they can provide support and resources to help those employees get the help they need.

Gone are the days when ‘leave your stuff at the door’ is an acceptable practice in workplaces. Work affects our home life, and our home lives affect our work. Workplaces that care and prioritise employees’ mental health and well-being have more engaged and productive workers and attract and retain the best people thanks to a great brand reputation.

What Happens When Leaders and Managers Don’t Talk About Mental Health

When leaders and managers ignore or mismanage mental health concerns in the workplace, it can have a number of negative consequences. Employees who are struggling may feel isolated and alone, and they may be less likely to seek help. This can lead to their mental health problems getting worse, and it can also have a negative impact on their work performance.

Additionally, it can create a culture of silence in the workplace, which leads to employees being afraid to talk about their mental health problems, even if they are struggling. This can make it difficult for employees to get the help they need, and it can also create a stressful and unhealthy work environment for everyone.

Traditionally in workplaces when someone starts to show signs of struggling it has been treated as a performance management issue. This just compounds the situation for the person and usually makes things worse. While performance management might be necessary in some circumstances, it is never the best place to start. The best place? The How Are You conversation.

Why It’s Important to Start With the ‘How Are You’ Conversation

When having a conversation with an employee about their mental health, rather than focusing purely on work, it’s important to start with the “How are you” conversation. This means asking the employee how they are doing, both personally and professionally. It’s also important to truly listen to the and to get curious and ask questions.

Starting with the “how are you” conversation shows the employee that you care about their well-being, and it also opens the door for them to talk about their mental health if they are comfortable doing so. Sometimes gentle persistence can make a big difference, as they may need to consider their options if they are to open up, so don’t be afraid to try again.

How to Be Confident in Applying Reasonable Adjustments

If the person does share their mental health challenges with you, it’s important to be confident in applying reasonable adjustments if necessary. Reasonable adjustments are changes to the workplace that can help employees with physical and mental health issues to do their jobs safely and productively. These adjustments can be anything from flexible working arrangements to changing a person’s hours, start times or their duties.

There are a number of resources available to help leaders and managers learn about reasonable adjustments. These resources can provide information about the different types of adjustments that can be made, and they can also provide tips on how to implement these adjustments in the workplace.

Clear Conversations Training

If your workplace has a skills gap between your leaders and managers, there are a number of training programs around. Our Clear Conversations training is an effective program These are important skills that can help you to create a workplace where everyone can thrive.

Who is it for?

Leaders and Managers who want to understand and identify mental health concerns in the workplace, and confidently respond and support their team.

What will I learn?

Provides participants with an overview of mental health and wellbeing issues in the workplace, and trains participants using a concise action plan to respond to mental health and wellbeing concerns.

The training covers the following topics:

  • The importance of mental health in the workplace
  • The signs and symptoms of mental ill health
  • Reasonable adjustments and their application
  • How to start a conversation about mental health
  • How to be supportive and responsive to someone who is struggling
  • Referrals to further support
  • Self-care and healthy boundaries

Delivery Mode and Length:

The training is delivered in a small-groups and includes a variety of activities, such as presentations, discussions, and practice conversations.

  • Online or face-to-face
  • 4 hours duration
  • Program is able to be modified to meet the needs and available services of the organisation (e.g., bespoke role plays; education about support options such as EAP)

If your workplace would like to invest in your managers and leaders, get in touch today at