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How to support mental health at work as an employer

3-minute read

How to support mental health at work
Kelly O’Neill

Kelly O’Neill

16 May 2023

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Time invested in the wellbeing of your employees is time well spent, whether that’s talking about mental health, encouraging positive work patterns, or connecting about common interests.

Kelly O’Neill is Head of Wellbeing at Simply Business and here she gives tips for employers on looking after the mental health of their employees.

Simply Business has partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by Mind, to support the UK’s self-employed with their mental health and wellbeing.

Together we surveyed more than 700 small business owners to understand their challenges. Now we want to start a conversation and end the stigma surrounding mental health at work through our Mind Your Business initiative.

Tips if you manage a team

Research from analytics company Gallup shows that 70 per cent of an employee’s motivation is influenced by their manager. This places a lot of responsibility on you if you’re managing a team – so it’s important to be a positive influence.

How you manage your time, communicate, make decisions, and respond to challenges all impact on a team culture. Read on for ways you can support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing at work.

1. Be open to talk

Make sure you build a culture of trust and honesty in your business. You want your employees to feel like they can talk to you if they’re struggling or need to talk about a personal issue that’s not related to work.

Here you can lead by example and perhaps talk about your own challenges if that seems appropriate – it might open the door to a deeper conversation.

2. Encourage breaks

Make sure that your employees are taking regular breaks as stress and tiredness can cause accidents or burnout over a long time.

Research shows that organisations promoting health and wellbeing are seen as 3.5 times more likely to be creative and innovative (The Wellness Imperative, World Economic Forum, 2010). At Simply Business, we’ve introduced weekly mindfulness sessions and Zoom-free time in the calendar to support staff to take breaks or have time away from meetings.

As a manager, you should be aware of how your team is spending their time and encourage breaks if they’re not taking enough time out. Look at your own behaviour and check that you’re role modelling this – if you’re seen to be taking breaks, your employees are more likely to do so too.

3. Clarify your expectations

Be clear with your expectations of your employees and talk about these regularly. Whatever business you're in, your employees will want to know how they're doing, so be clear on tasks, deadlines, and expectations.

Stress can lead to mental ill health, and being clear and transparent with ways of working can help both you and your employees improve your working relationship.

4. Create time for connections

Informal conversations and fun interactions create psychological micro-lifts. When times are stressful this can easily be forgotten, yet it's important for our day-to-day mental health.

As human beings we crave connections, so make time to talk about something non-work related and get to know your employees on a personal level.

While it’s particularly challenging to keep connected during lockdown, with restrictions beginning to ease we’ll all hopefully start to feel part of a wider community again soon.

5. Spot the signs

It may not be immediately obvious if someone is struggling with low mood or mental ill health, but there can be signs to look out for.

Try to notice any changes in their behaviour that might need exploring. For example, have they stopped taking care of their appearance? Are they more withdrawn? Do they seem quick to anger?

While these behaviours don't necessarily point to mental ill health, it might be a sign that your employee is struggling and you should check in to see if they’re OK.

6. Refer to specialist support

If your employees are experiencing poor mental health, you should refer them to speak to their GP or a mental health professional.

Another good place to start is mental health charity, Mind. They have an Infoline that provides information and signposting to specialist support. They also offer resources for employers to help you support your employees.

Why invest in staff wellbeing?

Supporting mental health and wellbeing at work not only creates an environment for staff to feel supported and perform to the best of their ability, it could also save you money as a business. According to the latest report from Deloitte, employers can expect to get an average return of £5 for every £1 spent on staff wellbeing (Mental Health and Employers: Refreshing the Case for Investment, 2020).

Useful small business guides

About Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill is Head of Wellbeing at Simply Business. She has 18 years’ experience in HR and is an active wellbeing and mental health campaigner and keynote speaker. Spearheading our employee initiative, Kelly’s work saw Simply Business win Gold in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Awards 2020. Kelly is also a qualified Mental Health First Aider.

How are you supporting your employees? Let us know in the comments.

Visit Mental Health at Work's dedicated Self-Employed Support Hub for toolkits, resources and powerful stories to help improve workplace wellbeing.

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With Simply Business you can build a single business health insurance policy combining valuable covers and services. Whether you want to be covered for stress support, physiotherapy, or in-patient hospital treatment, we've got the right health cover to suit your needs.

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Photo: Nola Viglietti/
Kelly O’Neill

Written by

Kelly O’Neill

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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