Mental health support toolkit: a manager’s guide

Here we look at approaches managers could take to support staff with mental health concerns, including workplace-related stress

In recognition of National Stress Awareness Day, managers and HR professionals in employment organisations across the country have been urged to adopt proactive approaches to managing mental health issues within the workplace.

According to the CIPD, around one-third of all employees have suffered from mental health issues such as stress within the workplace, with around £65bn lost to the UK economy every year through stress-related absence from the workplace. This equates to 70 million working days.

Beate O’Neil, head of wellbeing consulting at Punter Southall, has called for a greater awareness of mental health and wellbeing within the workplace, in particular the role line managers play in promoting wellbeing and training in appropriate methods to address mental health issues early before they escalate to long-term absence. Here we look at approaches managers could take to support staff with mental health concerns, including workplace-related stress.

Overall staff welfare

Businesses should make sure they have long-term strategies to ensure a happy and healthy workforce. This should be integrated at policy and operational level and managers should be trained in how to implement the guidelines. Staff should be given plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and discuss problems, while businesses should work to promote successful work-life balance outcomes.

Fit for Work programme

This government occupational health service is available to support all employers and GPs in helping patients or colleagues who are experiencing mental health difficulties that have or are likely to prevent them working for four weeks or more. The programme designs a step-by-step return to work plan based on an occupational health assessment of the workplace and what modifications may be necessary to ensure a safe and lasting return to employment.


Managers should be trained in how to produce and implement a wellbeing recovery action plan (WRAP). Once they have identified a mental health problem developing, they should be supported to develop a plan of action and support in conversation and collaboration with the employee and, if necessary, the team.

Squash stigma

Organisations should work to promote awareness and conversation around the topic of mental health in the workplace. Employee benefits organisation Unum and the Mental Health Foundation have issued guidelines to help corporations integrate mental health awareness and support into their business practices.

Employee assistance programmes

Most large businesses have one of these, which offer free counselling and support to employees. Managers must be aware of these and able to use them to support the affected employee and feel able to access the service themselves to receive support and advice on how to cope with mental health problems amongst their team.

In-house counselling

Managers should check what counselling and ongoing monitoring services their organisation can offer to any employees experiencing mental health difficulties. With this now being the most common reason for absence, many companies offer free access to registered counsellors or mental health professionals in addition to ongoing occupational health support.

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