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How to Talk to Employees About Mental Health

March 28, 2023
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Talking to Employees About Mental Health

Employee mental health is an essential part of a successful, productive workforce. Poor mental health can affect job performance, leading to decreased morale and increased stress in the workplace. Businesses should make employee mental health a priority by providing access to resources like mental health counselors, designated quiet spaces for taking breaks or dealing with stress, and flexible working policies which promote work-life balance.

Not only does this incentivize good employee performance, but it also has the added benefit of lowering overall healthcare costs due to improved well-being among employees. Ultimately, investing in employee mental health not only makes good business sense but it shows compassion for the well-being of workers, and its positive effects reverberate throughout a company.

Mental health is a real and valid issue that should not be ignored. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, and one in 25 experiences serious mental illness. Mental health is important to overall health and well-being and can lead to better physical health and quality of life.

Mental health is a topic that’s becoming more and more visible in the workplace. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to your employees to create a safe and supportive environment. But talking about mental health can be difficult and uncomfortable. Here are some tips for learning to navigate mental health conversations in the workplace.

Employee Mental Health Concerns and Discussion

Before you can learn to engage employees effectively in healthy conversations about mental health, it may be helpful to understand why these situations must be navigated carefully. There is somewhat of a negative stigma associated with mental health, and that can close the door to effective conversations with management and leave employees in an isolated struggle. Hindrances to effective mental health conversations often involve the perceived effect employees believe these conversations will have on their employment.

Fear of Losing Their Job

Employees who experience mental health concerns may be more likely to keep it to themselves because they fear jeopardizing their careers. In addition to the stigma that comes with discussing mental health in the workplace, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression are commonly associated with unreasonable worries. These worries may convince the employee that their employer’s knowledge of their mental state will hold them back from promotions, successes in the workplace, or thinking being in recovery equals unemployment.

Fear of Judgment from Coworkers

Other mental health concerns center upon how employees believe their coworkers perceive them. Some employees may feel that their struggle will be held against them or will be taken by their coworkers as a sign of weakness. This is despite the fact that many employees suffer in silence.

Anxiety About Reputation

Media has played a detrimental role in people’s abilities to cope with and manage mental health. It has created unnecessary anxiety, stress, and worry about how employees feel they are perceived. Too often, mental health is portrayed as an individual problem rather than a collective societal problem. Employees may fear they will be labeled a certain way or that others will question their mental health condition because the symptoms they exhibit do not match what is commonly seen on television.

For example, a person with an obsessive-compulsive disorder is commonly portrayed as overly organized or clean on television. People with depression are typically described as suicidal and even dangerous to others. These biased portrayals of mental health conditions can make it difficult for employees to discuss mental health with others.

The Benefits of Discussing Mental Health with Employees


Overcoming these roadblocks and discussing mental health with your employees can have many benefits. A healthy workplace not only boosts productivity and morale but also has a positive impact on mental health. It can provide an environment of safety in which employees are comfortable discussing their issues without fear of bombardment or judgment. When the mental health needs of staff members are met, they are more likely to remain productive and at work while reducing absenteeism due to illness or stress.

Having a supportive workplace culture means employees feel secure in their roles and more empowered to speak up when they need help. This can significantly reduce instances of burnout among staff, as well as improve team collaboration and mutual respect among all members of the organization. Ultimately, it is beneficial for employers to prioritize a culture of good mental health for both their employees’ sake and for gaining long-term success. Here are some of the most significant benefits of improving mental health in the workplace.

Improved Productivity

Mental health is an essential component of maintaining a productive and efficient workplace. Satisfied and content employees are far better equipped to handle their daily tasks and almost always report fewer sick days than those struggling with mental difficulties. Recent studies have linked greater job satisfaction to improved concentration, better attendance, and increased motivation; all of which can have a massive positive impact on productivity.

Companies that prioritize mental well-being are more likely to achieve greater success in the long run due to their employees’ enhanced levels of commitment and dedicated audiences. Investing in processes that support positive mental health should be seen as an investment in the longevity and prosperity of the entire organization.

Increased Creativity

A mentally healthy workplace can provide numerous advantages for both the employer and the employee. One such benefit is increased creativity and innovation. When employers foster an environment that encourages positive mental health, their employees feel safe to let their imaginations soar and come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems. Not only does this boost morale within the workplace, but it also helps to build a reliable team of problem solvers who will help move the business forward.

Additionally, a mentally healthy workplace can encourage creative thinking between colleagues during team meetings by offering space for brainstorming without suppression or censorship. This is a key component in encouraging collaboration between members of different departments, sectors, and seniority levels within an organization.

Improved Teamwork

Mental health is a fundamental component of effective teamwork, as it has a direct effect on how well employees collaborate and communicate with each other. When coworkers are mentally healthy, they have the capacity to be more open-minded, perform better, and receive feedback more productively. With their improved mental well-being, they can form strong relationships with their colleagues and foster greater trust within their teams. This results in strengthened teamwork dynamics, enabling everyone to reach peak performance levels efficiently and effectively. Ensuring employee mental health is essential for developing stronger, better teams in 2023 and beyond.

Enhanced Team Morale

The overall morale of any organization determines its success in the long run. A positive work environment with happy employees will almost certainly translate into increased morale and productivity. Having a good rapport between workers and management is key to achieving a positive atmosphere in the workplace, as conversation and connections help to improve cooperation and understanding. Moreover, providing sufficient recognition for hard work done by individual employees not only raises morale but also develops a strong sense of ownership in the organization.

It is essential for employers to identify what motivates their employees and incentivize them accordingly; this could range from financial rewards to moral support, depending on different preferences. Ultimately, it is through resonating kindness, helping out when needed, forming trusting relationships, and recognizing achievements that one can further boost employee morale with lasting effects – leading to a higher-functioning company that may even inspire others.

Promoting a Mentally Healthy Workplace


Finding a healthy work-life balance is critical to long-term success and well-being. Achieving equilibrium between work and life pursuits can help ensure productivity, fuel creativity, and improve overall job satisfaction. Employers should strive to encourage this kind of balance through various approaches, such as flexible scheduling, telecommuting options, and generous holiday policies.

Each of these initiatives fosters a supportive environment that values individuals’ personal lives as much as their professional ones by recognizing that when one feels fulfilled outside of the office, they are more likely to be energized while on the job. Making sure employees maintain a positive work-life balance is an important step in building an engaged, energized team.

Mental Health Resources

Bosses and managers need to do more to support the mental health of employees. This can include helping to find professional counseling and therapy services, both online and in-person, as well as offering support through employee assistance programs (EAPs). Employers should also work to raise awareness of mental health topics and increase the visibility of the resources they make available.

Offering information sessions on managing anxiety or recognizing warning signs can help employees feel more comfortable reaching out if they are struggling with a mental health issue. Building a culture that is open and supportive of employee mental well-being is an important step towards ensuring everyone feels supported when facing difficult times.

Creating a mentally healthy workplace starts with understanding the importance of mental well-being. Employers can take an active role in helping to create an environment that is supportive and nurturing for staff, whether through training and education, providing support services, or facilitating flexible work conditions. Providing employees with mindfulness activities, such as yoga or meditation classes, helps to encourage self-care.

Physical Wellness Programs


In addition, promoting physical wellness through wellness programs, such as corporate fitness initiatives, encourages staff to make healthier choices for their well-being. Having an open-door policy where employees are encouraged to ask for help should they require it further promotes a mentally healthy workplace. Taking these small steps helps employers go a long way toward creating the best possible environment to allow employees to feel supported and empowered.

Related Reading: Corporate Wellness Retreats

Tips for Employee Mental Health Discussions

Creating an environment where employees feel safe to openly discuss their challenges is essential for productivity and morale. Companies should provide resources and training to cultivate an atmosphere where staff members can feel comfortable speaking up if they need help. Leaders should also make sure to listen non-judgmentally and respect employees’ unique boundaries, contributing to a trusting relationship that allows difficult conversations to take place. Encouraging open communication between management and staff will foster accountability and creativity, ultimately leading to the best outcomes for both parties.

Acknowledge the Conversation

Personal experiences and comfort levels regarding mental health vary, and initiating a discussion can seem invasive if you are not cautious. Acknowledging the difficulties of the conversation upfront can break some of the potential tension while creating a safe space for honesty. Beginning the conversation with phrases like, “I want to speak to you because I care about you, and I know this might be awkward, so I would like us to embrace that together” could be a way to break the ice.

Another way to generate conversation is to use a rating scale such as 1-10 or sunny to stormy as a way to gauge the employee’s feelings on various topics such as burnout, stress, or energy. Finally, you could begin a conversation by expressing your own struggles with mental health or something else happening in your life. It is a fine balance between oversharing and opening a door, so approach the conversation carefully.

Avoid Singling-Out

If you plan to have conversations about mental health with your employees, be sure that you are having those conversations with all who report to you. Your concern may be an individual employee, but checking in with all employees reduces the perception that someone is being targeted or singled out. This promotes a general culture of care at your organization and also creates a safe space for employees to check in with one another. During these check-ins, be sure your employees understand that they are not conversations about performance but about challenges that may impact their success at work.

Make Conversation Optional

As with anything in your organization, practice makes it permanent. Developing the ability to host conversations with your employees and creating safe spaces to share will take time. Avoid the common pitfall of holding a single check-in and then moving on – each day can look different, and mental health concerns build over time. However, don’t force employees to share how they may be feeling. As the leader, your role is to simply create the space that allows an employee who wishes to share to do so.

Know When to Stop

If the conversation seems to plateau or you get the sense that your employee no longer wishes to discuss how they feel, recognize and accept that it is ok to stop. This may be true within a single conversation or within a series of check-ins over time. As a manager, you will have other resources available so you can rest easier knowing that the opportunities for help are there, even if it is outside of conversations with you

Know Your Limitations

When a person is experiencing negative mental health, it is natural to want to help. Human instinct is to care for others and to provide a shoulder to lean on; however, it is even more important to know your own limitations. The obstacles an employee is facing may not be work-related, and therefore you may not be the best resource to help.

There may also be a sense of obligation or expectation to help because you are the leader of the organization who is supposed to have all of the answers. It is okay to admit and recognize when you do not, but it is an opportunity to say, “I’m not sure, but let’s look for a solution together.”

Follow-up with Employees

Following up with employees after they have taken time off to address their mental health is an important step for employers. It helps demonstrate that the workplace values its workforce and that open communication concerning mental health is encouraged. A simple check-in upon their return to work can make a big difference in how employees feel supported, empowered, and acknowledged for taking a proactive step toward managing their well-being. Supportive conversations around counseling, resources, or other potential supports are beneficial in helping employees feel heard and promoting the development of a healthy, productive work environment.

Check-in Regularly with Employees

Checking in regularly with employees is essential for the well-being of any organization. It allows managers to stay up to date on their team’s productivity and morale while enabling employees to voice concerns they may have and to receive important feedback. Regular check-ins allow employees to communicate their needs, which can boost a sense of purpose, increase engagement, and ultimately lead to better results for the company. These conversations also allow for open dialogue about challenges that may be impacting an employee’s performance, enabling them to feel more supported and valued within their role.

How to Encourage Employee Self-Care

Providing your employees with resources and outlets to address their own mental health can be as easy as making it a part of your company’s culture. Ways that you can encourage good mental health and self-care include:

  • Encourage walking meetings – Instead of sitting at a desk, table, or in an office, encourage employees to keep their feet moving or get outside for their meeting. Exercise is a great way to keep the body and mind healthy.
  • Listen to music – Offices don’t need to be stuffy and silent. Find some ambient music that all employees can agree on to break up the silence.
  • Schedule small breaks Taking a few minutes to stretch, grab a snack, or just shift mental focus can encourage positive mental health.
  • Update the environment – Encourage employees to create a space for themselves that surrounds them with comfort and warmth. This could include family photos, plants, or even artwork from children.
  • Update the environment – Encourage employees to create a space for themselves that surrounds them with comfort and warmth. This could include family photos, plants, or even artwork from children.
  • Put a solid healthcare navigation plan in place – With a professional resource in place like a healthcare navigator, your employees will always be able to trust that if an issue arises with their mental health, they will receive prompt assistance from a dedicated expert.

What’s a Healthcare Navigator?

When you’re not the best person to assist an employee with their mental health needs, consider hiring or contracting someone who is. Dealing with insurance and referrals, finding care resources, and even scheduling appointments can create additional stress for your employees and worsen existing mental health concerns.

A healthcare navigator can work side-by-side with your employees to identify concerns, get questions answered, handle scheduling, referrals, and billing, and alleviate the stress that often comes with the process. Best of all, a healthcare navigator can provide these services for all your employees, regardless of their mental or physical health concerns.

Talk to Employees About Mental Health: It’s So Important

Talk to Employees About Mental Health

Taking steps to address mental health in the workplace is crucial for the well-being of your employees and the success of your business. By acknowledging that mental health is a real and valid issue, promoting a healthy work-life balance, offering resources and support, and following up with employees after they take time off for mental health reasons, you can create a safe and supportive environment for your team.

With a patient navigator in place to assist your staff, your HR director is free to address other, core needs. HR departments are often not trained or experienced in assisting individuals with mental health issues, which also often means employees are simply not getting the right care.

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  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062016/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8631150/
  4. https://academic.oup.com/schizophreniabulletin/article/40/Suppl_4/S233/1875426
James Haggerty

A Time to Heal: Family Interventions offers personalized SUD Interventions, Addiction Recovery Planning, Case Management, Sober Companionship and Family Support. Call 310-450-6627 to connect with us.

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