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Supporting employees in the workplace

As a manager, you have a role in supporting a mental wellness culture. Part of caring for employees—and attracting and retaining talent—is your ability to create an inclusive culture that allows employees to bring their best to work. 

Individuals, in general, want to have a sense of purpose, contribute, and do good work. When you see an employee struggling with performance, it is important to have a performance discussion to address concerns early on with a focus on showing concern and exploring what you can do to help the employee improve their work-related efficiency.

Here are some tips when talking with employees: 

Talk with your team

  • Share the programs your company has available
  • Perhaps it’s an EAP, or a meditation class, or gym membership
  • Talk about your experiences for relieving stress and anxiety 

Listen when an employee is talking

  • Employees may disclose that they’re struggling with mental wellness or caring for a family member or having a work issue
  • This may occur proactively or as part of a performance discussion
  • This may feel uncomfortable to you, but it doesn’t have to
  • Once you know what’s going on for the individual, you can help them succeed at work

Have a successful conversation

  • Be empathetic but do not pry (remember, it’s personal)
  • Listen for a need for FMLA leave or accommodation – you may have an obligation to the employee
  • Be aware of your own bias and do not discriminate against the individual now or in the future

When you want inquire

  • Initiate a performance discussion and focus on performance observations - don’t assume there is a non-work-related issue
  • When there’s no explicit performance issue, but you sense that an employee is struggling, you should limit any question to “how are you?”
  • The employee can choose to engage or not; it’s important not to insist that an employee engage, or to pry
  • Remember, your employees have personal lives and are not obligated to talk with you, and especially not if there is no performance issue

Know when to engage HR

  • When you feel a performance discussion will escalate or if it has escalated
  • When you feel unsafe or unwilling to have a needed performance discussion
  • Your HR partner can support you and your employee

Compliance considerations related to managing employees who may be experiencing challenges with mental health

The information on these pages provide general information about creating a mental wellness culture and helping employees stay at and return to work.  Please bear in mind that these situations may raise legal issues and obligations.  Download our document Common Sense Compliance Guidance for managers and HR when addressing mental health in the workplace for more information on compliance considerations related to managing employees who may be experiencing challenges with mental health. We also recommend that you consult employment counsel for legal advice.

8 tips to start a conversation about performance

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15 ways managers can help employees stay productive during a difficult time

Download the list

15 ways managers can help employees stay productive during a difficult time

Download the list

  • "Untreated mental illness in the workplace costs businesses $105 billion each year mostly due to lost productivity."

    - Mental Health First Aid

This content is not to be considered legal advice. We recommend that Clients speak with legal counsel. 

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