Mental Health – creating an open environment

Posted on 10th October 2018

Considering our role in HR, we hear a lot about mental health and the potential effects; not only mentally but also physically if not picked up on in its early stages. For us it’s as much about prevention as it is about support when the signs are already present.

Mental health issues can affect absolutely anyone. It’s said that one in four of us are affected at some point in our lives. It can be triggered by a variety of different things and something that may not affect one person, may indeed affect someone else in a very different way. Some of these elements are not necessarily noticeable to everybody, therefore the importance of having a supportive and trusting relationship with your colleagues is second to none.


But what are the signs?

Of course, there are many different areas and signs of mental illness and sometimes it can be extremely difficult to notice them. However, here are some key things to look out for:

  • High levels of sickness absence
  • Loss of motivation
  • Withdrawn and not involving themselves in conversation
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of commitment e.g. arriving late for work more often
  • Increased emotional reactions or erratically flitting between different emotions


Ensuring regular update sessions, 1:1’s and appraisals can be the first steps towards opening up a line of conversation regarding any negative thoughts or feelings an employee may be experiencing.

It’s also important to take into consideration any drop in the employee’s capability to deliver in their role. Of course, you may initially think that they have become complacent and lazy but it’s so important in this instance to establish the facts first. Doing the opposite can cause more damage than good. Is there anything going on behind the scenes?

Encouraging an open environment within your business can be extremely beneficial. Provide easily accessible information on mental health support and the mindfulness services you have available. Showing that your business understands that mental illness is a real thing and that it’s not something to shy away from can promote confidence amongst employees to talk about it openly.

When your employee has opened up to you and is willing to talk through how they are feeling, the importance of listening can be vital to: 1) trust and 2) assessing what next steps are required to help that employee.



There are key things to consider when listening to an employee talk about what is causing them stress as this can determine the next course of action.

Determine whether it is a work issue. Or are they having trouble outside of work which is causing a loss of motivation at work? Is it taking their mind away from their every day?

Much of the time, just having someone to listen to them is a very significant step in helping their situation. Knowing that their manager will keep the conversation confidential, not allow it to affect their perception of that employee, and having someone to provide advice from an external point of view can make such a difference.

Don’t forget though, having the answers to their questions or worries isn’t always necessary. Consider how many times you’ve got something off your chest, not received any particular conclusion, yet it has made you feel ten times better.

Should you be in the situation where you expect an employee is stressed or another employee wishes to share their worries about another employee, open up for conversation and LISTEN!


5 Key stages of listening during a conversation of this nature are:

  1. Show you care – focus and make eye contact
  2. Have patience – the person may take time to explain or it may be a little disjointed
  3. Use open questions – e.g. “Tell me more.”
  4. Repeat it back to check your understanding is correct – but don’t interrupt
  5. Have courage – to ask how they feel. Make them feel comfortable enough to share what’s going on in their mind. Don’t feel the need to fill silences.


If you’d like to talk to us more about this subject then please give us a call on 01536 215240. We have a wealth of experience within the team to help guide you.

Charlotte Batchelor Character
Written by:
Charlotte Batchelor
HR Adviser