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Time To Change: Mental Health in the Workplace

6 April 2017

Even now, in 2019, when more and more people talking openly about mental health, sadly, it’s still often seen as a taboo subject – particularly in the workplace. Research suggests there’s a culture of fear and silence around mental health, and this is causing increasing numbers in absences, with more than 1 in 5 admitting to calling in sick to avoid workplace stress they have been under. Research from mental health charity, Mind, shows:

  • 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
  • 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’
  • 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff well-being but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance

Although we are seeing an increasing number of public figures open up about mental health, with people like Professor Green, Ruby Wax, Freddie Flintoff, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge becoming ambassadors for mental health charities and involved in campaigns and messages, there are still a lot of walls to knock down surrounding mental health. Many employees feel as though they don’t have anyone in work that they can talk to about their mental health, or that they may be judged by others/their employer if they do.

Ruby Wax and many other experts have discussed how social media and this new digital age has affected our mental health more than ever, with social media forcing us to compare ourselves to everyone else, and these feelings of inadequacy trickling down into our professional lives, too. We are constantly online, constantly available, constantly not living in the moment. We are always looking at the visual, which can cause even more anxiety for people struggling with their mental health because they don’t have a physical ailment to show people what they are battling with. Before we go into how to tackle the issue, we must first be able to recognise the signs that an employee is struggling:

  • A change in behaviour, not getting involved in office chat or being overly extroverted
  • Fluctuating moods and mood swings
  • Inconsistency in work output
  • Appearing anxious, tired or withdrawn
  • Struggling to focus on tasks
  • Difficulty making decisions

It’s hard to approach the issue of mental health, and many employers are afraid to reach out to an employee for fear of overstepping the mark. If you feel you should approach an employee, the advice given on mental health awareness pages is to find a quiet and private place to approach the subject, ask them how they are feeling and don’t push for an answer straight away, and most importantly – be honest. Here are some actions you can take to move forward in creating a better working environment to contribute to employee well-being, after all, you’re only as good as the people you employ…

  • Create a culture of openness, encouraging employees to talk about their mental health and how they feel
  • Encourage more breaks away from desks and encourage employees to get out of the office – this is know to reduce stress
  • Take a look at how success is managed and rewarded within the business. Are people feeling unloved or discouraged?
  • Take regular staff surveys to gauge how they are feeling, this is particularly important in large organisations
  • Most importantly, get to know your staff. Otherwise, how will you know if an employee is acting out of character or struggling?


If you would like an expert approach to mental health and well-being in your organisation or plan to hold an event on the topic, take a look at some of the most sought-after speakers and subject matter experts here, or drop our team an email at