For an employee experiencing a mental health condition, having a supportive manager can mean the difference between someone recovering faster and staying in their role, or leaving the organisation.
As a manager or supervisor, you can play in supporting an employee's recovery.
What do I need to know about the recovery process?
Recovery from a mental health condition is an individual process that varies from person to person. As with physical health conditions, the road to recovery can be rocky at times, and many people encounter setbacks.
For someone experiencing a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, work can play a vital role in their recovery. It can provide structure and routine, contribute to a sense of purpose, and provide financial security and social connection.
Physical and mental health go hand in hand.
For most people, recovery will involve an ongoing wellbeing plan and treatment. This can include:
- learning to manage or avoid things that may trigger setbacks
- recognising the early warning signs of relapses
- learning new ways to reduce and manage stress
- eating well and exercising regularly
- getting enough sleep
- finding time for the things you enjoy
- spending time with supportive friends and family
- regular appointments with health professionals
There are lots of effective treatment options for mental health conditions, including medical, psychological and lifestyle strategies. Most people will benefit from a combination of treatments, and what works may vary from person to person.
Further reading and resources
As a manager, what can I do to help?
- Being open about mental health in the workplace.
- Maintaining the employee's privacy.
- With their consent, involve other managers and leaders where required.
- Seeking written permission from the employee to speak to their treating health professional, beginning as soon as possible, with regular updates during the recovery process.
- Developing a plan with the employee, incorporating any adjustments and strategies that will support them to remain at or return to work.
- Exploring the possibility of staying at work before assuming the employee will need time off.
- If you work in a larger organisation, engaging your HR team or an occupational rehabilitation provider to provide additional support. Ensure clear channels of communication between all parties.
- Communicating with the rest of the team, to make the employee feel more comfortable about any changes to his or her work arrangements. Discuss with the employee how and what they would like others to be told.
- Managing absences where they are required. Keeping in touch with the employee during any period of leave, and supporting them on their return.
- Continue to review and check your employee's progress regularly and tweak the action plan you have put together as required. Positive feedback helps too, as this can boost confidence and productivity.
Look after yourself
Supporting an employee who is unwell can sometimes put an additional strain on your own stress levels and ability to cope, so it is important to look after yourself. This might include seeking support from a mentor or coach at work, or utilising a Managers Assistance Program (MAP), if your workplace offers one.