Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Mental Health Awareness Week: how to approach a struggling colleague

By Ellie Green, jobs expert at Totaljobs

“Crisis-mode of the pandemic may be over, but with job vacancies at all-time high employees are feeling the strain of a depleted workforce. In fact, Totaljobs’ latest Hiring Trends Index found that almost two fifths (38%) of workers are reporting ‘unmanageable’ workloads, with 78% experiencing at least one burnout symptom this year. These burnout symptoms are set against a backdrop of increased financial anxiety amongst the cost-of-living crisis – which has reached a 30-year high. 57% of workers agree that they are worried their salary won’t go far enough to cover basic needs, such as household bills.

“Under these circumstances it’s easy to understand how many feel isolated and alone, which is why the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. With this is mind we’ve developed some tips if you’re concerned about a colleague.”

Top Tips if You’re Concerned about a Colleague:

1. Let them know you’re there: Start by talking about general wellbeing, and let people know that they can talk to you – it helps to break down the taboo that can still sadly be present around mental health. Opening up to another colleague can feel more relaxed than chatting to a manager. Even if they don’t want to speak to you about something in the moment, you’ve let them know you care and will be there for them when the time is right.

2. Avoid making assumptions: Don’t guess what symptoms a co-worker might have and how these might affect their life or their ability to do their job - they know themselves best. Even the most sociable people can feel lonely, especially if they’re living with a mental health problem. By being an active listener, you’ll understand more about their unique experience with mental health.

3. Respect confidentiality: Remember, information about mental health is confidential and sensitive. If someone opens up to you, you should feel privileged. Don’t pass on information unnecessarily – not least because this breach of trust could harm someone’s mental health further.

4. Encourage them to seek support from the workplace: If someone feels like their workload is spiralling out of control and impacting negatively on their wellbeing, encourage them to discuss it with their manager or supervisor. If their manager doesn’t actively create the space for them to be able to talk about wellbeing, it can be difficult to start this dialogue. HR teams also often have wellbeing initiatives in place and have a duty of care to staff, if people feel uncomfortable speaking to their manager.