1. Choose an appropriate place
Choosing somewhere private and quiet where the person feels comfortable and equal. Possibly a neutral space outside of the workplace, such as a local coffee shop would be great to create the best environment to relax and feel comfortable to talk.
If they are a remote worker, consider whether going to where they are may be beneficial. These conversations are often best face-to-face, and by making the effort to visit them will certain aid in the building of trust.
2. Encourage them to talk
Start by talking about general wellbeing, and let people know that they can talk to you if they need to. Remember everyone’s experience of mental health problems is different, so focus on the person, not the problem.
Staying silent is one of the worst things people can do and opening up and talking about how they’re feeling can in turn help them feel more relaxed about chatting to their manager. Even if they don’t want to speak about it at that time, you’ve still let them know you care, and you’re there for them when the time is right.
Having time allowed after certain difficult face-to-face or phone call situations to offload with a colleague can truly help in creating a far more positive response and output to these inevitable situations.
3. Encourage them to seek support from the workplace
If someone feels like their workload is spiralling out of control, or have recently been dealing with some challenging customer situations. Encourage them to discuss it with their manager or supervisor. If their manager doesn’t create the space for them to be able to talk about well-being, it can be more difficult to start this dialogue.
It depends on the relationship they have with their manager, but if they have a good relationship and trust them, then they could meet them on a one to one basis to discuss what’s going on.
Having someone from HR present will make the meeting more formal, and normally wouldn’t be necessary in the first instance. But if they didn’t get anywhere with the first meeting then it might be a sensible next step.
4. Avoid making assumptions
Don’t try to guess what symptoms a co-worker might have and how these might affect their life or their ability to do their job – many people are able to manage their condition and perform their role to a high standard.
5. Respect confidentiality
Remember mental health information is confidential and sensitive. Don’t pass on information unnecessarily – not least because this breach of trust could negatively impact someone’s mental health (unless you believe that person could be of harm to themselves or others and then your internal safeguarding procedures will be required).
Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to any employee experiencing a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which can include a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on normal day-to-day activities.
If you don’t tell your employer about your mental health problem, you won’t be able to benefit from the protection of the Act.
6. Learn about mental health
Reasonable adjustments vary from workplace to workplace, but typically employees with a mental health problem that qualifies as a disability might be offered changes to roles and responsibilities, working hours, start or finish times, breaks; and/or regularly catch ups with their manager to discuss workloads, priorities and stress levels, for example.
All employees – including line managers and HR professionals – can find information and practical steps to promote wellbeing, tackle stress and poor mental health at work by visiting www.remploy.co.uk/employers/training.
7. Be honest and clear
If there are specific grounds for concern, like high absence levels of impaired performance, it's important to address these at an early stage.
8. Develop an action plan
This does not need to be war and peace, it is a simple tool and reference point for you and the employee to refer back to and monitor progress. Work with your employee to develop an individual action plan which identifies the signs of their mental health problem, triggers for stress, the possible impact on their work, who to contract in a crisis, and what support they may need. The plan should include an agreed time to review the support measures to see if they’re working.