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Line managers ‘first port of call’ for employees with mental ill-health

26 Sep 2018 By Emily Burt

CIPD and Mind publish guidelines for improving workplace mental wellbeing

Line managers should be better equipped to recognise early signs of stress and mental ill-health, the CIPD has advised today. 

The organisation has collaborated with mental health charity Mind to produce the People Managers’ Guide to Mental Health, which outlines key actions managers can take to improve mental health in the workplace. 

“The role of line managers in employee wellbeing is vital,” said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. “They are often the first port of call for someone needing help, and are most likely to see warning signs of poor mental health among employees.

“With the right capabilities and tools in place, they will have the ability and confidence to have sensitive conversations, intervene when needed, and signpost to the right support when needed.”  

Among the publication’s suggestions were using regular catch-ups and supervised meetings to monitor staff wellbeing and being alert to potential workplace triggers for distress, such as long hours or unmanageable workloads.

The report also recommended businesses work to address the stigma still attached to mental health and encourage people to talk openly about their needs. The publication stressed that managers must be prepared to broach important dialogues and offer support. 

“Employees still don’t feel able to talk about issues such as stress, anxiety or depression, fearing they’ll be discriminated against or overlooked for promotion,” warned Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind.

“Equally, managers often shy away from the subject, worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. But staying silent and doing nothing can make things worse.” 

Following a disclosure of mental ill-health at work, managers should be prepared to make reasonable adjustments – such as relaxing requirements to work set hours in favour of flexible working, giving employees time off for appointments related to their mental health, such as therapy or counselling, and increasing one-to-one supervisions with staff.

“Given how much of our lives are spent at work, and how common poor mental health is, it’s really important that our employers and managers take an active role in helping us keep well and supporting us when we need it,” Mamo said. 

“We hope this improved guide will encourage managers to start honest conversations with employees when they need extra support.”

The CIPD and Mind guidelines follow the government-commissioned 2017 Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers research, which estimated the cost of mental ill-health at up to £1,560 per year, per employee

Meanwhile, a survey of 44,000 UK workers published by Mind in September revealed almost half (48 per cent) had experienced poor mental health in their current job, but only half of those affected had spoken to their manager about it. 

“The positive impact [managerial support] can have on people’s wellbeing is enormous, but the business will also reap the benefits of happier, healthier, more engaged and productive employees,” Suff said. 

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