No Image Available

Clare Porciani

Office Depot & Viking

Senior Manager HR Operations UK & Ireland at Office Depot & Viking

Read more from Clare Porciani

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Workplace Mental Health Training for Managers


Mental illness is one of the biggest causes of absence at work, yet few feel comfortable talking about their problems in the workplace, and most managers aren’t trained to support struggling staff members. Isn’t it time we changed that?

According to The HSE, one in four people in the UK experience problems with mental health, with anxiety and depression being the most common complaints. That’s a quarter of the country’s workforce facing mental illness at some point in their careers. Yet, most businesses aren’t equipped to deal with these issues. In fact, most businesses aren’t even talking about these issues.

A recent study conducted by Viking found that 45% of UK managers have not been trained to spot mental health problems in colleagues. Furthermore, 67% of managers felt there was a stigma around the subject of mental illness at work. This highlights a major problem with office culture in Britain today.

The same study also found that 65% of UK managers have been approached regarding issues relating to mental health, stress or anxiety. So it’s evident the problem is widespread, but managerial teams currently don’t have the skills, tools or knowledge to address it.

Why businesses should invest in wellbeing

The mental health impact on businesses can be seen with both employee absenteeism and presenteeism, two issues that are costing billions of pounds each year. 

Statistics on the Mental Health Foundation website tell us that 12.7% of all sickness-related absence days can be attributed to mental health conditions. What’s even more interesting with the data shared by the charity, are stats to suggest that health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.

The website continues to highlight the importance of promoting wellbeing to tackle presenteeism (lost productivity due to employees working whilst unwell). If a business invested in seminars, workshops and other methods to improve wellbeing at work, it would cost approximately £80 per person per year, according to the Mental Health Foundation. For a business with 500 employees, the total cost of investment would be £40,000. But the estimated net return in savings would be £347,722 due to improved levels of productivity.

What managers can do to help

In addition to investing in wellbeing practices in the workplace, it’s crucial for managers to be trained in supporting their staff when it comes to dealing with mental illness. The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) makes it a legal requirement for employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees. However, the outdated legislation does not specify formal mental health training. But managers should be trained in the following:

•       Learn to spot the signs

The first step that managers must take in improving mental health in the workplace is learning to spot the signs of mental illness. Look out for changes in behaviour and work-based performance, such as:

-       Changes in mood or how they interact with others

-       Any signs of being stressed, anxious or withdrawn

-       Problems with the quality of their work

-       Changes in their appetite or increased drinking / smoking

-       Increased sickness absence or problems with punctuality

•       Be equipped to provide support

Providing support can be anything from listening and caring, to making ‘reasonable adjustments’ at work to help them carry out their job. The last part is especially important if a team member’s mental illness becomes a disability and hinders them from completing day-to-day tasks.  

Being flexible with working hours or allowing more time for breaks can help a struggling employee make their day more manageable, keeping their productivity levels up. Small and simple changes can often make a difference, and one-to-one meetings should be held regularly to discuss flexible agreements.

For team members who are struggling with concentration and focus due to mental illness, work with them daily to give continued support and help prioritise their workload.

•       Have actions in place

To help a colleague with mental health problems, it’s important to have a set of actions in place. Firstly, an OH (Occupational Health) referral to a health practitioner is required. If they are not seeking medical help already, advise them to do so. 

Following that, managers should help staff create action plans to improve wellness at work. This can be identifying triggers and problems, and deciding what adjustments are needed. Or it can putting into place a strategy of support, or creating a network of people they can talk to.

•       Encourage an open dialogue 

One of the biggest changes we need to push for in the UK is the normalisation of mental health discussions. The Viking study revealed a shocking percentage of managers believing there to be a stigma around mental illness at work.

In order to change this, we must first change the culture of our companies. Start an open dialogue and invite employees to share their experiences. Creating an environment where people can be honest helps staff members be more confident and proactive in seeking the support they need.

Prevention of mental illness in the workplace

One of the most important things for employers to remember is that most mental illnesses can be treated. Moreover, whilst some employees have pre-existing conditions, many develop problems due to work-related stress, which can be prevented in the first place.

The best treatment is always prevention, so problems with productivity can be avoided. Have a strategy to improve working conditions and encourage a good work / life balance for happier, stress-free staff. Managers should be trained to focus on staff wellbeing, not just hitting targets and driving business goals.

Monitoring staff overtime should also be a priority for line managers if you want to improve work / life balance for employees. And anything that can be done to minimise stress at work – such as regular breaks, flexi-time, or days in lieu for working weekends – should be deployed.

As a result, you will see a rise in productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved staff retention, and huge cost savings for your business.

No Image Available
Clare Porciani

Senior Manager HR Operations UK & Ireland at Office Depot & Viking

Read more from Clare Porciani

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!