Mental Health at Work: What to Do, How to Help and Who to Turn To

Mental health at work

Are your employees feeling stressed right now? Are you? If so, you’re not alone, and neither are they. COVID-19 has caused an enormous amount of stress around the world. In this article, we will guide you through the importance of mental health in the workplace, the responsibility that employees have to look after their employees’ mental health, steps to take to manage it, resources you can check out to help with these steps, the importance of having a mental health policy and contact information for employees suffering with mental health issues.

Identify mental health issues earlier through regular feedback meetings. Learn more here.


Recently, News Medical reported on a survey showing that over a quarter of the UK-based adults they surveyed said they were being treated for mental disorders, such as “mood disorders, neurotic disorders, stress-related conditions, and somatoform disorders, a group of psychiatric disorders that cause unexplained physical symptoms”. That’s just a subset of the employees being treated: the ones who admitted it! The real numbers are likely to be much higher.

Regardless of where your employees are working, managing and supporting mental health at work is still important. In fact, now that more employees are working from home than ever before and facing the most significant global crisis of many people’s lifetimes, dealing with mental health in the workplace is, quite frankly, a necessity in many HR managers’ lives.

To put this into perspective, according to research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) less than 30% of UK employees ever worked from home during 2019. Since working from home became the norm for all but essential workers or those who physically cannot work from home, it simply became the norm. Not everyone was comfortable with this change and the adjustment is likely to have caused distress to many of your employees in many ways: from having less than ideal workspaces, to constant interruptions from family members or pets, the need to home-school children, weight gain from stress-eating or convenience snacking, or loneliness and even depression due to self-isolation on one’s own. Times are tough.

How Important Is Mental Health in the Workplace?

David Mallon, Chief Analyst at Deloitte says, “The well-being of our workforces is of critical importance. This was true before the pandemic. Today’s crisis only heightens the urgency. Organizations talk a good game, but results are decidedly mixed.” David selects a few numbers from the Deloitte report 2020 Global Human Capital Trends, “80% say that well-being is important. 94% say that it drives performance. 96% say that it’s an organizational responsibility. Yet 2/3 don’t measure its impact at all.”

Quite Frankly: Duty of Care Is the Law

Regardless of whether your business measures well-being or not, being mindful of how your employees are doing is actually the law. According to acas, “Employers have a ‘duty of care’. This means they must do all they reasonably can to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. But how?

In 2017, the UK government commissioned an independent review on the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace. It’s called the Thriving at Work report and it sets out a set of standards that they recommend employers of all sizes put in place. The HSE says that you can meet part of these core standards by creating a mental health at work plan, promoting communications and open conversations, raising awareness and reducing stigma and providing a mechanism for monitoring actions and outcomes.”

What Is the Answer to Managing Mental Health at Work?

The first steps are to identify it. That might require educating your managers about how to spot the signs or providing mental health in the workplace training. It’s also a good idea to have a formalized way of coping with it – for example, something that addresses prevention, intervention, and protection.

You may even want to create a mental health in the workplace policy based on the guidance of experts like the Mental Health Foundation, as this helpful document explains. If you do create a formal policy, make sure it is easy for managers to find this resource when they need it because when it becomes necessary, finding a helpful guide that they ‘know is somewhere, they just don’t know where…’ could have serious consequences!

Make documents easily accessible

Store documents like formal policies or mental health assessments in a digital employee file and make sure that all data is at hand when needed.

How to Put Mental Health on the Agenda

Today, more than ever, it’s really important to put mental health on the business agenda – but doing so requires making it a whole business concern, not just an HR concern. As this PDF from the Mental Health Foundation says, “It’s vital to get buy-in from senior leadership and make sure conversations about mental health and wellbeing happen at board level.” How do you get this buy-in?

First, by looking at the numbers. Taking good care of employees’ mental health can actually help improve morale and reduce staff turnover – and this should be evidenced in a business case that can help show management why it’s important. For example, Deloitte estimates that poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn-£42bn each year. If even a fraction of that cost can be reduced by reducing absences, presenteeism (attending work while ill) and employee turnover, it is worth the investment.

Secondly, setting targets helps ensure that improving mental health awareness and reducing its impact across the company can be measured and, therefore, addressed. It’s wise to choose the right timing to put mental health initiatives in place. Right now, with the stress affecting our global workforce, there has never been a better time to put mental health on the business agenda.

Resources to Help Manage Mental Health Concerns in the Workplace

If you’re looking for support for line managers, colleagues and staff, ways to assess your organisation’s approach, ideas to improve workplace culture or help to develop policy and practice, there are many organisations that can help. One of these is You might also like to take a look at the practical, HR Manager-focused content we’ve written about motivating your employees – how to boost your employees’ performance, improving teamwork from anywhere – the best collaboration tools to use and flexible working rules for the new normal.

Motivating Employees in Times of Crisis

Employee MotivationNot everyone can cope equally well with working from home. This checklist therefore contains 31 tips to motivate your employees – according to their personality.

What Is Likely to Cause Mental Health Issues?

An excessive workload and financial concerns are two of the top three causes of mental health issues in the workplace according to Benenden health. However, they say, “In reality, it is often a combination of issues which take their toll on employee mental health”.

Having a clear policy in place relating to mental health and the workplace used to be a ‘nice-to-have’. In our current situation, it is essential. While there is still a long way to go before discussing mental health is openly accepted, we can only hope – and do whatever we can as business leaders – to promote awareness of the topic and to let people know that it’s okay to be sad, frustrated and overwhelmed. And it’s even more okay to tell someone about it and get help.

Useful Websites

If You, or Someone You Know, Is Suffering with Mental Health Challenges, Please Contact Someone!

Take a look at this website

Phone: 0300 123 3393

REACH OUT TO CALM (for men aged 15-35)
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

For confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

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Mitarbeitermotivation durch stetiges Feedback

Schedule regular feedback meetings and document how your employees are doing. All in one tool: Personio.