Mental Health in the Workplace: What is My Role?

Mental health in the workplace is gaining more attention each day. And it’s no surprise why. Recent research reveals managers have a greater influence on mental health than an individual’s doctor or therapist. Even more notable, a manager has equal impact of a spouse or partner! As mental health in the workplace continues to evolve, many managers are asking: What is my role? Keep reading for how you can promote mental wellbeing at work to support your employees.

It may feel overwhelming to hear, but as a manager your role in promoting—and demonstrating—mental health in the workplace is crucial. You not only impact employee wellbeing, but you have a unique opportunity to be a first responder for your team members who may be struggling.

What is My Role in Mental Health in the Workplace?

As a manager or leader there are 3 key areas where you can proactively support and promote mental health in the workplace. These include creating a positive work environment, encouraging training and development, and being a first responder.

1. Creating a positive work environment

Foster a positive and inclusive work culture that values mental wellbeing. But it’s more than just promoting it—it’s demonstrating positive behaviors as well.

Encourage open communication

Open communication is more than the old-fashioned “my door is always open” approach. It’s proactively seeking feedback from your team and being mindful of your response. Creating a safe space for team members to share their ideas—no matter their role or experience—will increase productivity and sense of belonging.

Recognize and address stressors

Identify and solve for workplace factors that may contribute to stress. This can involve:

  • Proactively managing workloads before they become a problem
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Being transparent about company policies and changes
  • Providing adequate support and resources to prevent burnout
  • Working collaboratively to create solutions

Promote—and openly practice—work-life balance

Be a positive role model and lead by example for your team members. For instance, if you say you care about work-life balance but then regularly send emails outside office hours and work during vacation, then you’re likely having a negative impact on your team. Demonstrate what a healthy work-life balance looks like, including:

  • Taking midday breaks for self-care or family needs
  • Approving all PTO requests and not asking “why” they’re taking time off
  • Accommodating flexible work hours and, if possible, location
  • Scheduling meetings and sending emails only during set work hours
  • Respecting working hours of team members
  • Taking PTO and staying offline
  • Providing opportunities for relaxation and stress reduction

2. Providing training and encouraging development opportunities

Mental health in the workplace isn’t the sole responsibility of managers and HR/Benefits Teams. Every employee has a role to play. By educating yourself and your entire team, you can normalize mental health awareness, help reduce stigma, and help your organization as a whole.

Help your HR/Benefit Team promote mental health awareness campaigns

  • Share your organization’s mental health resources with your team in an impactful way.
  • Openly talk about your EAP during a team meeting or one-on-one.

Promote and participate in workshops or training sessions.

  • Encourage participation during regular work hours.
  • Offer incentives to participate.
  • Equip employees with skills to manage stress, enhance resilience, and support their own mental wellbeing.
  • Participate in trainings that are specific to managers such as how to lead with empathy

3. Being a mental health first responder

While it’s important to provide mental health resources and help foster a positive workplace for your employees, managers may need to be first responders for an employee who is struggling. This can include springing into action when in-the-moment support is needed.  

Pay attention to your employees wellbeing

Regularly checking in with your team members will help you to get to know them. What’s normal for their personality, energy, and productivity? Noticing changes in behaviors can often be a sign of something going on. The better you know your employees, the easier it may be to intervene early.

Know the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues

  • Mental health issues can be obvious or difficult to spot.
  • Panic attacks and anxiety attacks may happen during the workday.
  • Be prepared to provide empathy and support.

Make a warm transfer to your EAP on behalf of your employee

You’re not expected—nor encouraged–to be a counselor for your employees. Connecting them with professional help can have a significant positive impact. This is where an EAP, like Carebridge, can be such a helpful tool for managers and leaders. Knowing that there is a mental health professional who can support not only your employee, but you, can make a positive experience for all.

A Manager’s Ultimate Role is to Care

Your role in mental health in the workplace may seem like a lot. But ultimately, your main role is simply to care. By genuinely caring about your team members’ wellbeing you’ll be on the right path towards the 3 key areas of creating a positive work environment, encouraging training and development, and being a first responder.

Mental health in the workplace is continuously evolving. By committing to grow in your support of employee mental health and wellbeing, you can make a positive impact on the lives of your team members.