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How managers can support worker mental health

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Supportive and responsive managers understand the needs of their workers and help to break down the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental ill health.

Even in times of change and uncertainty, your role as a manager remains the same - to provide a healthy and safe workplace where the mental health and wellbeing of your team members is supported.

Most people with mild to moderate mental illness are able to stay at work but may require some adjustments. When you understand and support your workers’ needs early, you help improve recovery time and reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

This video developed by the Black Dog Institute helps managers by suggesting adjustments and strategies that can be used to promote staff wellbeing in the workplace.

This video includes captions, which you can turn on and off.

As a manager, you play a vital role in supporting your workers' mental health and wellbeing.

Enhance your capability as a manager and keep up to date through these simple and practical guides, tools and resources on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Understand behaviours

Managers need to know what to look for, what to do and how to prioritise psychological safety. Better understanding of psychosocial hazards in the workplace and the conditions that may affect performance can improve your ability to manage.

1. Understanding mental health

The first step in creating a mentally healthy workplace is to better understand the mental health continuum and the potential risks to psychological health in your workplace.

These risks include but are not limited to poorly managed workplace change, remote work, bullying and fatigue.

Managing and supporting worker mental health at work is a critical and growing challenge for managers. The way you interact with your workers at work can have a great effect on the mental health of your workers.

2. Your role as a manager

Managers are generally responsible for leading, supervising and supporting worker health, safety and wellbeing.

The way you interact with your workers can affect their mental health. Given their role and influence, managers may also have a duty to be proactive and continuously ensure that their workplace complies with work related obligations under the WHS Act.

3. Promoting mental health and wellbeing at work

Providing easy access to support early can improve worker productivity, engagement and their overall health.

Building a mentally healthy workplace involves considering other factors, such as financial pressures, that can impact workplace mental health.  Providing support to employees experiencing financial hardship is pivotal and can improve financial wellbeing and/or mental health. Beyond Blue has developed a comprehensive resource that describes the link between financial wellbeing and mental health and outlines how you, as a manger can provide support to individuals.

Identify and address mental health

Under work health and safety laws, employers have duties and obligations to provide physically and psychologically safe work.

Organisations also have obligations to consult with workers and their representatives about health and safety, identify risks to mental health, assess these risks, eliminate or minimise the risks, and review to ensure strategies are effective.

Identifying and addressing mental health issues is a key responsibility of managers.

It is not your role as a manager to diagnose a mental health condition or to be a counsellor. But you can guide workers to supports if they are acting out of character or you are concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.

1. Identifying the warning signs of mental ill health

Many people will experience poor mental health at least once in their lifetime and this may affect their work.

Spotting the signs of stress or poor mental health at an early stage means managers can address the risk before it impacts the worker's health and productivity.

2. Having a discussion

If you suspect poor mental health, or a worker discloses to you, it is crucial to start a conversation early.

These conversations can assist you, as the manager, and the worker to identify and implement appropriate supports, adjustments or access to help.

If the discussion indicates that work is a contributing factor to poor mental health, seek further guidance from your human resources team.

How to support a worker

Workers living with a mental health condition or illness can often manage their own condition without it affecting their ability to do their job well.

However, there may be times when a worker requires support and reasonable adjustments at work to help them get well and stay well.

1. Providing ongoing support to help your worker stay at work

Good work is engaging, fair, respectful and balances job demands, autonomy and job security.

There is strong evidence that good work is good for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Workers don’t have to be 100 per cent well to be at work and good work can help in recovery, injury and illness.

2. Supporting your worker to return to work

If a member of your team is off work and struggling with mental health, it is important that you are supportive and proactive.

Whether the struggle is work related or not, it is still a manager's responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of their workers.

Supporting managers’ mental health

Managing a team can be challenging so it is also very important to look after your own wellbeing.

A manager who can lead by example and demonstrate a good work life balance will encourage their staff to do the same.

Enquire with your employer to see if they have a manager assist program available or take the time to reflect on how you might use the above resources to support your own mental health.

Training on mentally healthy workplaces

We provide training through our learning management system called Comcare LMS.

To access our training, you first need to create an account in Comcare LMS (see the steps to create an account). Then, select the training item that you are interested in and login with your email and password.

For more information about the training we offer, see Training and learning.

Visit our Disclaimer and copyright page for information you need to know when using the Comcare website.

Page last reviewed: 27 October 2023

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 |

Date printed 25 Apr 2024