Last week, Tom Oxley of Bamboo Mental Health and I ran a workshop which focused on empowering managers to support mental health in the workplace. It was a thought-provoking day where interesting and useful ideas were shared, underpinning a real commitment to supporting mental health in the workplace.


We felt privileged that so many people, from different backgrounds and experiences, wanted to come together around this subject. And it shows just how far that we have come in terms of workplace wellbeing, and organisations understanding the vital role they can play in supporting mental health.


 But why should managers be having these conversations in the first place – especially when the stats say that only 4-20% of poor mental health is caused by work alone?


 Tom Oxley explained: “Even though work might not cause employee’s mental health problems, the company, the manager and the team will all be impacted significantly by an employee who is struggling with their mental wellbeing. Put another way: it may not be your fault, but it is your problem.


 “An employee struggling with their mental health will be less productive and the company will see an increase in absence and lost working time. Some absence is good – but much of it avoidable.”


 This is where the manager can make a real difference as the manager is in a unique position to be able to spot the signs and speak to the employee about their mental health. They have opportunity – both formally through 121s, for example, and informally. They have regular contact; after all, more often than not, the employee spends more time with work colleagues than at home.


 “As a result of this regularity of contact, the manager is in a really good position to be able to spot the signs which might reveal an underlying problem.”


Our experience though, is that managers are often daunted by the prospect of having conversations about mental health, concerned by what they should say and what they shouldn’t. Which means that often these conversations don’t happen. Which is damaging for the individual and for the organisation.


This is why empowering managers to have conversations about mental health is so important. They can make a huge difference to the employee, and they can fundamentally prevent an employee from falling from the brink into a lengthy absence from work.


Productivity, performance, and mitigating and minimising absence provide the cornerstones of a powerful business case for managers having conversations about mental health. But, it’s about more than that. It’s about increasing satisfaction. It’s about creating a workplace where people feel safe and supported. It’s about focusing on the person and their needs. It’s about a duty of care. Managers who are talking about mental health can and do make a significant and positive impact with the people they manage, their teams, their companies, and indeed themselves. And their role is absolutely fundamental to empowering mental wellbeing in the workplace.


 *For more information about the Mental Health for Managers and HR Professionals training, please email or 


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