We all have our good days and bad days at work, and those bad days may have increased for many with the complete change in the way we work due to the pandemic. During 2020 & 2021 levels of anxiety, stress and depression were high. According to an employee sample study of 2,099 people 58% experienced some form of stress at work, 69% moderate-high levels of stress in general, and 73% had trouble relaxing.
This inability to relax comes as no surprise, with many having to work remotely from home it became hard to separate work from our private lives. I felt the effects of home working and the pandemic on my mental health, and I was very grateful to have a management team that was always at the end of the phone for a chat, or a short slack message to check-in, as they noticed I wasn’t my usual self despite not seeing each other in the office.
But not everyone has that outlet to discuss their mental health at work, or if there is, how they go about finding that support in the workplace. Today is Time To Talk day, which is about all of us being open to the idea of talking to help support each other’s mental health.
It’s not about encouraging someone to talk but making them aware that there is an option. A safe space and an ear to listen if they need to talk. It’s not always easy to be open about how we are feeling to our work peers let alone friends and family, so how can we make it easier to talk about mental health at work?
A few things that can make it easier to talk…
Ask & Listen
How many times have you answered the question ‘how are you?’ with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘good thanks’ when really that’s not the case. It can be hard for people to know when or how to speak about how they are really feeling. Asking questions can open space and direction for someone to talk about their mental health, but make sure to avoid leading or judgemental questions.
If you think someone has been acting differently it’s OK to mention if it is done in a kind and open way. “You’ve seemed a bit quiet recently, is everything alright? I’m here if you want to talk.” This shows that you care and opens the door for them to chat when they’re ready. (Find more tips on how to start a conversation here.)
Don't treat them any differently
Many people find it hard to open up because they don’t want to be treated any differently by their colleagues. Offer patience and do check in with them more regularly, but still behave how you normally would around them. Some might not be ready to talk when you offer the opportunity to do so, but it only means they will be more comfortable the next time you try.
Time and Place
It can be intimidating and daunting for some to talk face-to-face about mental health, especially in a work setting. Some may find it easier to talk over the phone, via email, text or even finding the right situation can help. Whether that’s one-to-one catchup over the phone, during a lunch break, or even after-work drinks at the pub, one of these settings could be a safe space for them to feel comfortable enough to talk openly.
Listen some more, and don’t try to fix
If you find out that someone you know is struggling with their mental health, it can be instinctive to try and fix that. But it’s not an instant fix. Learning to manage and recover from poor mental health can be a long process, so just talking and listening can be a great first step in helping them with their own mental health goals.
These are some helpful starting points to make it easier to talk about mental health at work, but even if you’re not talking, you can offer support simply by offering extra help at work, sending a message to let them know you’re thinking of them, or offering to meet up outside of work.
For further advice and mental health support at work visit:
Disclaimer: the guidance in this blog is provided for general information purposes and is not in any way legal or professional advice. You should consult a professional or legal advisor regarding employee mental health where appropriate.