How can I know if someone is struggling?

Everyone’s mental health can change at different times and we will all experience ups and downs along the way. It’s important for managers to get to know their team and understand their wellbeing needs.

A combination of the Coronavirus pandemic and the continuing cost of living crisis has added new pressures and stresses to people’s lives including financial and housing worries, increased isolation and complex health issues. Some employees may be experiencing anxiety, low moods or chronic illness as a result of these challenging times.

Sometimes a member of your team may come to you to say that they’re experiencing problems. Or, you or a colleague might notice that someone’s behaviour has changed and that they may be showing some of the following signs:

  • low mood
  • poor concentration, tiredness or being easily distracted
  • feeling anxious, panicky or worrying more
  • coming in late to work, being absent from work or taking sick leave
  • loss of confidence or feeling overwhelmed by tasks
  • finding it hard to make decisions
  • appearing emotional or tearful
  • lack of energy or change in appetite
  • working longer hours than usual or trying to do too many things at once
  • avoiding situations or loss of interest in usual activities
  • easily irritated, over-reacting to situations more than usual or aggressive
  • talking very fast or not being able to focus
  • withdrawing from colleagues, family or friends

Find out more about the signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health here: 

It’s important not to make assumptions about what someone might be experiencing or going through. But understanding some of the signs that someone might be experiencing stress or some other issue with their mental health can help you to notice when it’s time to start a conversation. Remember that you don’t need to know whether someone has sought help or had any kind of diagnosis to have a conversation about mental health or how someone is feeling.

Start a conversation

This MindWell animation can guide you through the process you can take in talking to an employee about their mental wellbeing.

If you don’t have a human resources department or service you can get advice from:

ACAS helpline – 0300 123 1100 – call for free impartial and confidential guidance about any kind of query about relationship issues within the workplace.

Mind Legal Line – 0300 466 6463 – provides legal information and general advice on mental health-related law.

Mind has produced this simple resource that can help you to have a positive and supportive conversation with your employee.

These resources can also give you guidance in the do’s and don’t of having a conversation about someone’s mental health:

Put support in place

We’ve created a resource to help guide you through all the kinds of support you can put in place for a team member who is struggling with their mental health – from reasonable adjustments to workplace support services.

The first place to step is to check out what support your particular organisation offers to support staff wellbeing like an Employee Assistance Programme or counselling services, for example. Ask Human Resources or check your staff intranet or staff handbook for more information. We’ve produced a guide on how to support someone who is struggling with their mental health at work.

For people working remotely, our self-care tips to stay well whilst working from home can be easily shared with employees.

Share MindWell resources

You can print off or share our self-help sheets and other materials from our library of self-help resources. It’s also a great idea to put our wellbeing at work sheet on your staff noticeboard!

Complete a Wellness Action Plan (WAP)

If your employee has decided to stay in work, working together to create a WAP can help you to agree:

  • What your employee will actively do to stay well at work and at home.
  • What you will do to support your employee to stay well at work including making reasonable adjustments and putting other support measures in place.

Completing a WAP can also create better understanding of your employee’s wellbeing needs and lead to more open and helpful conversations in the future.

Our #MindWellMOT checklist and Self-care goal-setter resources can be used together with a WAP. They are a great way for individuals to look at their personal wellness needs and build in time each week for self-care and activities that help to support their wellbeing.

Moving more, eating a healthy diet, taking time to relax, nourishing your social networks and finding the coping strategies that work for you can all help to reduce the effects of stress and help build resilience. 

Get involved: This is Me Yorkshire

This is Me is a nationwide campaign empowering employers of all sizes to collectively change the narrative around mental health in the workplace by encouraging employees to share their stories and experiences. Find out how to get involved in This is Me Yorkshire.

Keep in touch while your employee is off work

If your employee is off work due to ill mental health, it’s important to have a conversation with them about how they want to be contacted by you while they’re away. This includes how often you will contact them and how. Do they want to have a phone call, or meet in person, for example? It’s also best practice to let them know that they can change these arrangements at any point while they’re off work, and to ask what they would like their colleagues to be told about their absence.

Managers often fear contacting someone who is off sick, but not staying in touch can make it harder for someone to return to work. So even if you weren’t able to speak to your employee before they went off on sick leave, you should still talk to them about what they need, how you can support them and set boundaries for communication for while they are off work.

This Mindful Employer resource gives guidance to help you to manage appropriate contact with your employee while they are off work.