Mental health-related conversations at work can be difficult. People may feel awkward, embarrassed and uncertain and outcomes may be unpredictable. But, the good news is, to make a reasonable adjustment at work can be a relatively easy procedure. But if someone is experiencing mental health-related sickness at work and their issues affect the way they work, the rest of the team, and any adjustments don’t help, further action may be needed. Therefore, if an employee can no longer work in the capacity required, they may need to be signed off work 

Mental Health-Related Sickness At Work

Mental health-related sickness at work may be connected to something at work or outside of work. Staff may experience stress and feel overwhelmed due to pressures at work. But while one person’s pressure may be manageable, that same amount of pressure may overwhelm someone else. Factors that may contribute to feelings of pressure at work may include the following:

    • Demands
      Do they have targets or deadlines they are struggling to meet?

    • Control
      Are they struggling to cope with how much or little control they have over their role?

    • Skills
      Do they have the skills needed to carry out their role?

    • Relationships
      Are there negative relationships within the team? Or lack of support from others?

    • Uncertainty
      Are there redundancies taking place or is the team being restructured?


Supporting Staff With Mental Health-Related Sickness At Work

If a staff member becomes distressed in your presence, try to stay calm. Reassure anyone who may be suffering distress and listen to them. Then, move to somewhere private so you can talk and listen. Also, ask if they would like you to contact someone on their behalf. Then reassure them and tell them you are here to support them. 

Ask what is happening, how they feel and, if appropriate, what solution they might be able to think of. Don’t pressurise anyone to disclose information if they don’t want to. Talk about available support networks. These may include: HR team, GP, Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programmes and Psychological Therapies. 

Ascertain who they would like to involve and how they would like to move forward. Then, put a support plan in place. Some staff may request a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®) which explains how they wish to be treated if they become ill at work. 

Stay connected

If staff members have been signed off work, it’s important to stay in touch with them. Employees may feel positive about returning to work if they receive early and sensitive contact from employers. Communication is key. But check how much contact they want and via what method, eg. phone, text, email, online or face-to-face. The contact they want may increase or decrease depending on their mental health. This contact will help them to still feel a part of the team. Sometimes, barriers and misunderstandings can arise if there is little or no contact. 

Employees are more likely to be more engaged, loyal and productive if they have support. Ultimately this is where everyone – employees and employer – wants to be. So promote positive wellbeing in your workplace and remember everyone’s journey at work is different and everyone is an individual. 

Positive ways to help mental health-related sickness at work

    • Think about the rest of the team and how an employee’s mental ill-health may affect them. Offer support to everyone.

    • Think about others’ workloads in the absence of an employee being signed off sick.

    • Be honest and open without breaching any confidentiality.

    • Create an atmosphere where staff can approach you openly and honestly. This prevents gossip and untruths.

    • Deal with things early to stop them escalating.

    • Be aware an employee might not be able to think clearly if they are distressed. 

Avoid the following:

    • Don’t ignore issues or think they will go away or resolve on their own.

    • Don’t feel embarrassed and awkward.

    • Don’t make judgments.

    • Don’t put pressure on yourself to fix this. You may not have the answers but you can still help.

    • Don’t put pressure on a staff member to reveal information if they don’t want to


Support your staff with Mental Health Training

Supporting your staff is paramount to their wellbeing as well as the success of your team. If you or your team are interested to find out more about how to manage your mental health with Mental Health First Aid training, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!