How to start conversations about mental health in the workplace

Unsure how to start a conversation about mental health in the workplace? Check out our top tips

Home > News > How to start conversations about mental health in the workplace
Not sure how to talk about mental health in the workplace? check out our top tips for starting conversations with colleagues

When the pandemic started many of us made the extra effort to check in with colleagues regularly. As things have made a gradual return to normal, these check-ins have slipped down a lot of people’s to-do lists, and as restrictions were lifted we probably expected a lot of people’s anxieties would reside

With poor mental health being the number one reason we miss work, it’s important that we regularly check in on our colleagues and have conversations about mental health in the workplace

Talking about mental health can feel awkward at first, especially if you haven’t done so before, or if you’re unsure how the person will respond. The good news is that the more you talk about mental health the easier it becomes, and having open conversations is key to embedding an open and honest culture in your workplace

So how do you start a conversation about mental health? Here are some of our best tips:

Talk about mental health as you would physical health

The World Health Organisation states ‘there is no health without mental health’ – something we think is the key to breaking down barriers when having difficult conversations

You’d probably ask your colleague about a broken arm, or the half marathon they’ve been training for, so why not ask them how they’re feeling too when having conversations about how their physical health is?

It could be as simple as saying “it’s good to hear your arm is getting better, are you still feeling stressed about that deadline? let me know if I can help”. It needn’t be a heart to heart, or a long conversation, but letting someone know you’re there for them is a great first step

Share what you’re comfortable with

A great way to normalise conversations about mental health and wellbeing is by letting others know it’s not an off-limits subject. You could open up discussions by saying something like “I’ve been so tired lately, working from home makes it difficult for me to switch off, and so does my anxiety – how have you been sleeping?”

If you haven’t had a close connection or friendship with that particular person in the past you might want to start off with something even smaller, perhaps sharing how stressful work or volunteering has been lately. You can take small steps to build up to what might feel like tougher questions

Really listen to them

When talking to your colleague try to focus on them and their experience in a non-judgemental way. We all cope with stress and problems in different ways; what might not seem a big deal to you could be causing them a great deal of difficulty, so try to legitimise their feelings and make them feel heard.

Try to keep an ear out for recurring feelings or themes, such as financial concerns, feelings of loneliness or stress and try not to get too lost in the details, which can distract you from the bigger picture of what’s going on with them. Remember, you’re there to support them rather than solve all of their problems, so you don’t need to get too into the specifics.

If you’re unable to talk to your colleague or something is interfering with being able to listen to them properly, like an urgent email or your own stress, offer to reschedule for a time when you can listen.

Sometimes these conversations can feel daunting, and you might be worried about saying ‘the wrong thing’ but try to remember that simply being there is the first step in supporting someone, and often it’s better to say something than nothing at all

If you’re looking to make a change to workplace wellbeing and improving mental health in the workplace, get in touch with our team today

Interested? Contact us

"*" indicates required fields