Tips for employers and employees on mental health
Updated: May 29
Emma Fernandes, MD PUSH Mind and Body
Tips for employers:
Whether junior managers or CEO's, leaders have a crucial role to play in supporting their teams’ mental health and creating the psychologically safe work environments we know make work better. A large part of that is letting your people know that they are allowed to prioritise their mental health, and can do so without fear of stigmatisation. Here are 4 ways you can support your employees mental health at work: Start a conversation: Ask twice: We know that people often say they're fine when they're not. So asking twice is an important way of starting conversations. Keep it cool: You don't have to set aside hours to chat. 10 minutes may be enough, but make sure you aren't distracted by phones or work - showing you truly are with your attention makes an impact in itself. Approach the elephant in the room: if you know that someone has experienced mental illness - maybe they took some time off work recently, or spoke about it in the past - don't be afraid to ask how they're doing. Lead with Empathy: Lines between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred. Empathetic leaders understand that their team members are humans, not machines, who are shouldering personal problems while maintaining professional responsibilities. Leaders often focus on telling people what to do, rather than how they’re making them feel. Pay attention to the latter, open up lines of communication, and you’re well on your way to fostering psychological safety in your workplace. Model behaviour: As leaders, we really need to take more breaks. Not only does it show your team that you expect them to prioritise their mental health, but it’s also great for you too! A small step in the right direction can be announcing that you’re logging off for the day, or sharing a picture of your al fresco lunch, your walk, your workout (I know, no one needs to see another gym selfie) but it sends signals to your team that you’re taking breaks and then they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same.
Upskill: A question we’ve put to our clients as part of the PUSH audit is: “If someone came to you for help - whether with work-related stress or a more serious mental health issue - would you feel confident that you could give them the appropriate support?” You see, often line-managers are the first-port of call for struggling employees, but line-managers aren’t therapists, nor should they attempt to be, which is why we designed our mental health for managers programme. Knowing how to start and continue the conversation around mental health, as well as being proficient in mental health first aid, gives you the confidence to support your people, and will make all the difference to them.
Tips for Employees:
Our study with Yougov in partnership with Mind Solent found that a third of GB employees (36.7%) are suffering from worse mental health than pre-pandemic, with 78% citing work being a main factor. We’ve seen a huge growth in requests from companies from within every sector who are concerned about their employees’ wellbeing, with spikes in burnout, anxiety and stress-related absences. Here are some easy tips that can support your mental health in this new world of work: Enjoy a balanced (mental) diet: When we’re overworked and overwhelmed, it can feel almost impossible to tear ourselves away from our desks. We think working more is the solution when so often it’s the problem. A life lacking in variety is proven to promote stress and burnout, we can combat this by prioritising our mind’s need for variety, using the “Healthy Mind Platter” designed by Dan Siegel, whose research concludes that as in individual we need a balance of these 7 ingredients to support and restore our mental wellbeing: Physical activity, Focus work, Connection, Playing, Relaxed (real down time, no goals) Reflection (being present in the moment) and Sleep. All things are fundamentally neutral: Finding a more positive spin on a stressful situation can do wonders to get those spiking stress levels down. In fact, it’s kind of a superpower when you get the hang of it! Here’s an example of how to reframe a tricky work situation: I was really bothered by the way my manager spoke to me last week, and got pretty anxious when I decided to talk to her about it. Although it was stressful to approach my boss, it ended up being a great opportunity to practise compassionate directness. I’ll definitely feel more confident handling moments like that going forward!
Look at the big picture: How important is this going to be in the long-run? Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it actually worth losing sleep over? If the answer is no, actively shift your time and energy and focus elsewhere.
Make a list of your achievements (personally and professionally): This is a great resilience bolstering exercise because one of the major components of resilience is self-efficacy - where believing you can get through whatever you’re facing actually strengthens your ability to do it! So jot down your wins, and whenever you need a boost, take a look in your journal and bathe in all that glorious proof.
Sharing Stories: Sharing our stories is fundamentally one of the best things we can do to de-stigmatise mental health because, quite simply, it normalises it. Telling stories also gives us the space to check in on and care for our mental health. It really isn’t enough to only pay attention when you get to a crisis point.