How managers can support workplace mental wellbeing

Guidance for managers about how they can support work place mental wellbeing.

1 January 2019

Managers have a key role in improving the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff but many NHS managers do not feel confident in speaking to their staff about mental health as it's often perceived as a challenging issue.


Mental health can fluctuate along a spectrum in the same way that physical health does and there may be times when it is better than others. Mental health problems should be supported in the same, honest and consistent way that physical health problems are.

Mental health problems affect one in four people at some point in their life and account for over 30 per cent of sickness absence in the NHS. Mental health problems cover a range of conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, personality disorders and psychosis.

Managers do not need to be experts in mental health but an understanding of how to support staff and how to have open conversations about mental health problems will help create a positive culture around mental wellbeing and will create opportunities for staff to feel safe talking about their mental health.

What can managers do?

Managers play a key role in creating and maintaining positive and open team cultures that support mental wellbeing.

Engage and inform

  • Engage with staff so they understand their own objectives, their teams’ objectives and the organisation's objectives. This includes giving staff the opportunity to ask questions and feed back their views.
  • Give staff as much control as possible over how they deliver their work while ensuring they have the right skills for the job.
  • Monitor the workload of staff to ensure what they are expected to deliver is realistic within the timescales and resources available.
  • Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged, bullying and harassment is not tolerated and people are treated with dignity and respect. This includes encouraging staff to talk about mental health and creating a safe environment for staff to disclose their own mental health problems.
  • Keep members of staff informed of organisation or team changes. This includes providing a rationale for actions and decisions taken.


  • Encourage staff to have a good work/life balance including facilitating flexible working where possible. Make staff aware of your organisation's flexible working policies.
  • Have protected time when managers are available for staff to come and speak to them.
  • Treat all staff consistently and fairly and provide positive feedback to staff when they do a good job.
  • Encourage exercise and social events. Physical activities are shown to boost staff health, team work and mental wellbeing.
  • Make staff aware of the internal resources that are available to them such as occupational health or employee assistance programmes.
  • Follow up on problems on behalf of the team as soon as they arise.

Employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced the HSE management standards which provides information on how to assess and control the risk of stress. The standards cover six key areas which are the primary causes of stress at work and there is a degree of overlap with the principles of supporting mental health and wellbeing listed above. The HSE has also produced guidance on how to implement the management standards.

For further information on supporting mental health and wellbeing please take a look at Mind, Shift, the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group and Mind in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

For further guidance take a look at our supporting staff who are experiencing mental health issues.