How Can Managers Help Employee’s With Mental Health Concerns?

Dr Susanne Bahn Director / CEO, Tap into Safety

COVID-19 has caused significant anxiety and has become an issue in our workplaces as mental illness symptoms begin to surface. When employees experience mental health problems, they will likely show changes in their energy levels and behaviour and have difficulties with interpersonal relationships at work and home. You may also notice a decline in their appearance.

The main types of concerns are anxiety, depression and stress. The recommended manager actions and the signs to look out for are:

  1. Stress reduces our quality of life, and stressed workers might perform poorly as well as have relationship problems. They may be irritable, moody, and to be more susceptible to headaches, colds and flu. Giving your team regular stress management tips, such as doing problem-solving activities and learning calming techniques, may help them to cope.
  2. Anxiety and feeling afraid is a natural response to a threat and can trigger the body’s fight or flight response. This causes an increase in your heart rate, sweating and breathing. Feeling anxious is similar to feeling fear, except that anxiety can happen when there’s no real danger. Anxious employees may make excessive lists, work longer than others, and often procrastinate. It’s a good idea to check in with anxious workers to ensure that they are clear about the tasks they need to achieve. You may also find that offering them some reassurance and positive feedback goes a long way to reduce their anxiety.
  3. Depression causes a persistent low mood along where people can experience problems with sleep, appetite and energy levels. There may also be interpersonal problems both at home and at work. When workers are depressed, they may feel lonely and isolated, yet they are unable to reach out for help. As a manager or supervisor, it’s vital that you encourage employees who are displaying signs of depression to reach out to their doctor or your Employee Assistance Programme to discuss treatment options.

What Are The Best Manager Actions If My Employee Asks For Help?

If your employee approaches you for help with their mental health concerns, you need to know where you can refer them to for support. You should listen to their concerns without judgment and be careful not to try and solve their issues for them.

You may need to direct them to the Human Resources Department. You should also be familiar with the contact details of your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program.

If your employee is showing signs of high stress or anxiety, you may need to arrange for them to get home safely or to see their doctor. If you are prepared and pre-plan how to respond when an employee expresses a personal problem, it will be easier for you to deal with if you are approached.

Managing and supervising others can be very rewarding, yet at times it may also be difficult and stressful. For these reasons, you must take care of yourselves and be aware of your own mental health. You should focus on building and maintaining good self-care strategies, such as good quality sleep and nutrition.

It’s also important to keep solid supports in your personal life. Attending some professional counselling can also help to protect your mental health. Importantly, having healthy boundaries for yourself will ensure you maintain an appropriate work-life balance while effectively managing others.


Susanne Bahn

Contributor, Heruka Lifescience & Health Innovations