Walk the mentalk: How to talk to your employee about mental health

As part of our series this year on mental health, we have discussed building resilient employees and how to prevent employee burnout. In the third part of our series, we look into how to talk to your employees if you are concerned about their mental health.

Recently one of our readers mentioned they were concerned one of their employees was burning out. Key symptoms were present - excessive sick leave and trouble sleeping. However, as part of our tips to avoid burnout, they didn’t know how to start the conversation and was avoiding the situation.

Ignoring the problem and waiting until it gets worse increases the risk that the employee will leave the workforce – through a stress claim or resignation.

According to the fantastic website Heads Up, Supporting someone with a mental health condition to stay at or return to work has a number of benefits, for both the employee and the business. Work can play a key role in the person's recovery and positives for the business include retaining valuable skills and experience, and avoiding the cost of hiring and training new employees

Heads Up recommends some of the following steps to initiate a conversation with your employee:

Planning the conversation

  • Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and can you explain to the employee how to use this?
  • Consider who should be having the conversation and where it will be held. Are you the best person or would someone from HR be more suitable?

What to say

  • You don’t need to have all the answers – it’s about the conversation and the support you offer.
  • If what you say doesn’t sound quite right, stop and try again. It doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation.
  • Listen and ask questions.
  • Be aware of your body language. To show you’re listening, try to maintain eye contact and sit in a relaxed position.
  • Repeat back your understanding of what they've said and make sure it's accurate.

What to do next

  • Finish the conversation with a plan/next steps.
  • Develop a plan with the employee, incorporating any adjustments and strategies that will support them to remain at work
  • If you work in a larger organisation, engage your HR team or an occupational rehabilitation provider for additional support. Ensure clear channels of communication between all parties.

If your employee isn’t ready or willing to have the conversation yet, you’ve taken the first step to show that when they are ready, you, or another suitable support person are there to assist.

Keen to kick start your organisation’s path towards a mentally healthy workplace? Review our strategies for building a resilient workforce and implementing mindfulness into your workplace.

If you would like to have a discussion with GB about what action plans and resources are available to improve the mental health and wellbeing of your workplace, contact us today.

New call-to-action

Sign up to GB Advantage