Supporting Mental Health at Work

Uncertainty leads to anxiety and the coronavirus pandemic, has not been kind to many of us, with watching the media and hearing disastrous news every other day, stress levels for many of us has increased, moreover we have work to get back to, work that we attempt to juggle whilst sitting at home and managing home chores, attending meetings and constantly staring at blue screens. With the stress of the pandemic comes the economic fallout and questions of what might come next. This definitely leads to additional stress and as we navigate through various transitions, it becomes imperative to ensure that we pay attention to workplace mental health. If you are a manager or anyone with the seniority level of heading a couple or a group of individuals, this article will highlight the importance of why it is necessary to care for the mental health of your team members. 

Good mental health and management go hand in hand and high levels of mental wellbeing are associated with increased productivity and cordial relationships. Enjoying good mental health can help one make the most of their potential in different contexts, cope with difficult situations and enthusiastically participate in relationships both personally and professionally. 

How can a mental health issue be identified?

  • When you feel, your co-worker is not performing to the best of their abilities and looks like they need some kind of support 
  • When they’re having mood changes 
  • When their relationships are negatively impacted
  • Changes in appetite or sleep 
  • You know they are facing a difficult situation personally 

What can managers do? 

The primary role of managers is to support team members and that includes supporting emotional wellbeing during this tremulous time. Different things you can do, to be an effective manager include- 

  • Remaining vulnerable with your teammates about your struggles, and aim to decrease stigma 
  • Model healthy behaviours by taking off on days where you think your mental health is not great and normalise seeking therapy or any other kind of emotional support 
  • Build a culture of connection by frequently engaging in check-ins with your teammates where you quickly enquire about how work has been, what they learnt, what are they finding difficult to grapple with and how they may be taking care of themselves
  • Provide your teammates with flexibility 
  • Remain aware and inclusive, and work on not attending to existing assumptions, keep in mind that remaining curious will make conversations natural and easier 
  • Communicate: let your peers know about any organisational or structural changes, be open for feedback, and remain kind when criticising 
  • Make your team aware of mental health resources and encourage them to use employee assistant services 
  • Invest in training by focusing on preventative workplace mental health, ensuring there are consultants or professionals who can provide emotional support to individuals who may be struggling with their mental health. 
  • Modify practices and policies to reduce stress and remain flexible in designing and implementing policies that are friendly 
  • Utilise research by making sure teammates take satisfaction surveys and rate their mood and wellbeing and use the data to improve workplace mental health 
  • Provide your team with workshops and ample of resources related to mental health that helps them to reach out and help themselves and one another

Anyone facing emotional difficulties is entitled to ask for reasonable adjustments to their job and workload. As a manager, it is imperative to remain flexible and make reasonable adjustments. 

Examples of reasonable adjustments look like 

  • Changing your teammate’s working pattern to help them start later or finish a project 
  • Consider effects of travelling or night shifts 
  • Providing them with laptop and remote access software that allows them to flexibly work from home based on the severity of their distress 
  • Excusing them from attending events 
  • Setting up alternative networking arrangements for them 

Encourage ways in which mental health can be taken care at work by pushing simple points through everyday conversations these can be considered as assets in your communication as a manager- 

  • Encourage individuals to talk about their feelings 
  • Use colourful charts that highlight the importance of emotional health 
  • Encourage teammates to keep themselves active, providing them with smartwatches or other wearables to encourage fitness can motivate them 
  • Encourage healthy food intake, by having workshops that create awareness on healthy diets and how food plays an important role with respect to mental and physical health 
  • Encourage teammates to keep in touch and remain involved in their personal relationships, be gracious with providing them with holidays and encourage work from home as well 
  • Encourage them to ask for help and cultivate a culture where, asking for help does not get associated with the level of achievement 

How can you support a colleague if they reach out to you for help?

  • Encourage individuals to reach out to you and when they do, ensure you meet them at a safe time and place that still draws the boundaries around your professional relationship
  • Engage in active listening, have eye contact and make sure you are ready to hear about difficult matters and have intense conversations 
  • Have a digital repository of resources consisting of professional help that your co-worker can reach out to
  • Manage your feelings through plenty of reflection and if necessary, start therapy

Find a GUIDE to share all your problems with (even anonymously, if you want) on the FeelJoy Mobile App available for all Android and IOS users.


Archana Raghavan is a trainee psychotherapist and researcher, pursuing her masters at TISS, Mumbai. She enjoys reading and writing on mental health, therapy, identity and culture.
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