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Employees left to manage mental health without support, poll shows

Trish Embley tells HRNews about training line managers to better support employees mental wellbeing


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  • Transcript

    Two-thirds of employees have said they would not feel comfortable raising a mental or emotional wellbeing issue with their employer and that employees are being left to manage wellbeing issues on their own. Employers have been urged to engage in conversations and offer targeted support. We’ll consider that.

    People Management reports on the poll of 8,000 UK adults, conducted by Nuffield Health as part of its Healthier Nation Index report. It found that 66% would not share their mental health struggle with their employer. It also found that whilst 37% of respondents said their mental health had worsened over the last year, a third were not offered any physical or emotional wellbeing support at the workplace.

    Gosia Bowling, national lead for emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, is quoted saying it’s worrying that the majority of UK employees are being left to manage mental or emotional wellbeing issues on their own in the workplace. She says how the pandemic has affected the mental health of many employees hence why it’s more important than ever that employers find ways to help staff. She urges employees to engage in meaningful conversations and offer targeted mental health support.

    We think she’s right about that and many of our clients are looking at ways to do precisely doing that. An obvious one is through effective training of line managers so let’s hear more about that from our Head of Client Training, Trish Embley who joined me by video-link from Birmingham to discuss the mental health training she runs for clients:

    Trish Embley: “With our training, what's really useful is that we have this great partnership with a firm of actors that we've worked with for about 15 years now and in many areas, including mental health training for managers, we work with them. So we, the lawyer trainers, can talk about what you need to do, we can talk about great guidance available from MIND, how far they need to go in terms of reasonable adjustments but then, rather than just leave them and say well that's what you do now go and do it, the actors run ‘forum theatre’. This is really valuable because through forum theatre, without having to do any roleplay themselves, managers can suggest ways that these conversations are opened up, they see how those play out, some land well, some land not so well, and the actors do a great job of demonstrating that. So, by the end of the training session they walk away not only with a sort of checklist of what they need to be doing but also the practical skills on how to do it, how to have the conversations, the language to use, the things to avoid. So, between the two of us, I think it’s really useful and practical training.”

    Joe Glavina: “Of course, many employees are now working from home under hybrid working arrangements. Thoughts on that.”

    Trish Embley: “One of the challenges is managers don't get those informal touchpoints with their employees, they don't get to observe. So pre-COVID we used to start off our training sessions with managers saying, okay, let's list the tell-tale signs that somebody in your team is, maybe, having problems with their mental health. So, without the ability to have that observation in the office it can be a challenge for managers and that's why I think that the training and the guidance needs to be adapted so that in the virtual world they can still see the tell-tale signs, the behavioural clues that they would look out for in virtual meetings. Now, the actors have done a great job of switching what used to be classroom-based forum theatre to virtual training. So we tend to work with smaller groups because with virtual training, you don't want anyone switching their camera off or leaning into their phone or doing their emails. So small groups, so no one's got anywhere to hide, and we can facilitate the forum theatre in exactly the same way that we would have done in the classroom. The other thing, I think, that the actors have done very well is the scenarios that they are role playing will often involve a manager having a discussion with someone in a virtual meeting. So, the training is set up very well to try and give managers the skills that they will need in that new hybrid working environment.”

    That survey reported by People Management is called Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index

    - Link to Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index

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