Managing Mental Health Issues at Work

We spend a great deal of our time at work, and the financial and human costs of workplace mental health issues can be huge. For supervisors, mental health issues can affect workload issues, team interaction and whether or not you have a positive work environment.

Mental Health for Supervisors

Supervisors, apart from also being employees, have a vital role to play in promoting positive mental health in the workplace. Much of the awareness of what good mental health looks like is the same as for employees, but you will have different roles and responsibilities when dealing with it.

Is the problem poor mental health?

Some behaviours may appear to indicate "a bad attitude" rather than symptoms of a mental health problem. Often poor performance, emotional behaviour, tardiness and absenteeism indicate a mental health issue. Depression, for example, affects cognitive, emotional and physical functions. Some sufferers cannot read large or complex amounts of text, are over-sensitive, unreliable in quality and timely delivery of work, and have poor concentration and low motivation which may affect their abilities within social settings such as meetings and workshops.

What you can do

As a supervisor, your primary resource in this area can be found in the training available in the Early Intervention and Return to Work e-Learning Series, which includes information on sick leave, managing employee health issues at work, doctor's certificate forms, Short Term Illness and Injury Plan and the supervisor's role, long term disability and the supervisor's role and returning to work.

Managing employees in sickness is as essential as managing them when they are in good health. Here are some tips for engaging and retaining workers who may be struggling with a mental health issue:

  • Focus on building a good, trusting relationship between yourself and your employees, even before there is an apparent issue
  • Regularly communicate your performance observations, both positive and constructive, by identifying specifics on behaviours, performance and attendance. Documenting these factors may be helpful when developing an action or recovery plan or when determining if the employee is facing a medical or a performance problem
  • Talk to the employee in a non-judgmental, non-blaming way, "Here is what I see"