How can managers support employees' mental health?

Manager Team Tallk In The Workplace
Louise Fernand
Publish Date:
25 Apr 2024
Reading Time:
6 mins

In the face of stress, managers can help their staff become more resilient while minimising the impact on their emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. While people cannot become completely resistant to stress, there are ways to adapt to and cope with stressful environments. A British Red Cross LinkedIn poll found that 58% of people knew little about how to build resilience at work, but they wanted to know more.

This blog highlights how managers can support employees' mental health. It explores the impact of mental health in the workplace, examines stress and the impact it can have on teams, and offers suggestions for supporting employees' mental health through our Mental health at work training courses.

What is the role of managers in supporting mental health?

For a manager to be an effective leader, they first need to be an effective manager of themselves. They need to be able to stay focused, productive, and energetic, despite inevitable change happening around them. To support the mental health of their team, managers need to help their team to do the same for themselves, helping those around them and the organisation to succeed and thrive.


Do managers impact mental health in the workplace?

A manager suffering with negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, distress, helplessness and hopelessness will have a decreased ability to solve problems and weakened resilience. These emotions can transfer to a team, having a negative impact on them. However, managers who share their struggles and challenges, demonstrate openness and self-awareness; encouraging their team to do the same makes the whole team more resilient.

It is possible to find ways to handle pressure and keep adapting, even in an unstable organisation. By showing others how a leader manages their own needs, managers can provide a powerful cue about how others can and need to be encouraged to take care of themselves and one another.


What are the benefits to an organisation of supporting employees’ mental health?

By taking a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, your organisation can benefit from:

  • more engaged and motivated staff
  • reduction in absence and associated costs
  • increased productivity and staff retention
  • improved professional reputation
  • satisfied customers.


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Appeal to people’s underlying motives


How to recognise stress

Everyone needs a certain amount of pressure to live well. It's what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you throughout the day. However, this becomes problematic when there's too much pressure as it becomes stress.

People react to stress at work in different ways. It is only by acknowledging that we are stressed and listening to ourselves that we can do anything about it. When it comes to work stress, resilience is key.

Our blog about the relationship between resilience and stress in the workplace will help you to discover the link between resilience and stress, and its effect on workplace teams. Only by recognising stress, can we look to understand its causes and identify how to manage it.

Signs of stress at work can include:

  • Mental signs; racing thoughts, constant worrying, difficulty concentrating and difficulty making decisions.
  • Emotional signs; feeling overwhelmed, irritable and 'wound up', anxious or fearful, or lacking in self-esteem.
  • Behavioural signs; drinking or smoking more, snapping at people, avoiding certain things or people.
  • Physical signs; headaches, muscle tension or pain, dizziness, sleep problems or feeling tired.

If you’re worried about workplace stress, you can find out more in our blog: The top 10 causes of stress at work and how to address them.

How does stress impact an individual and teams?

When something stressful happens to someone at work it can affect how they think and feel about themselves and how they behave and interact with others. If the team’s ability to work together is impacted, this can result in reduced productivity which can also impact on the workload of others, increasing their own level of personal stress.

Team members may:

  • become withdrawn, short-tempered and less cooperative.
  • communicate less effectively and have difficulty making decisions or concentrating.
    feel stressed, anxious or unsure how to respond.
  • avoid things or people they are having problems with.


How can managers support employees experiencing stress?

Managers can use the CALMER framework to build effective teamwork by being calm and controlled. The framework can also be used to help team members experiencing stress, minimise future stress, and build better relationships across the team.

  • Consider – By getting to know their team, managers can help in creating durable relationships, needed to tackle obstacles. Feedback can be used to check how the team is doing, learn their preferred leadership styles, and establish levels of stress.
  • Acknowledge – Acknowledging that someone else’s feelings are valid can allow them to feel heard and therefore better able to listen. Managers can show that they have heard and understood what was said by acknowledging team members’ ideas and requests.
  • Listen – Team members should be allowed to make mistakes or disagree without negative repercussions. This will help team members feel safe, so they will be more likely to take calculated risks and be honest about their opinions.
  • Manage – If a team is functioning well collectively, they can share the pressures of change and uncertainty among themselves. But leaders need to give team members the freedom required to form this group resilience.
  • Enable – Morale can be built through expressing and respecting appreciation for team members. Managers should remind their team how their work contributes to the organisation.
  • Resource – Communication is affected by the level of trust that team members have in a manager’s ability to lead. Where trust is built up, small errors in communication may be overlooked or forgiven. Where trust is absent, even an innocent comment may be taken out of context and seen as threatening or disrespectful.

If you would like to find out more about how managers can support employees' mental health, our Mental health awareness for managers course enables you to foster a supportive work environment. You will gain the skills to effectively address employee wellbeing and optimise productivity and overall team performance.

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