Let’s talk about mental health at work

Let’s talk about mental health at work

Yes, I know it’s a difficult topic that most of us don’t want to think or talk about. But the last year has made it a topic that every organisation and every leader must talk about now. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, uncertainty, fear, over-work etc. etc. are triggering mental health conditions or making existing ones worse.


No-one is finding life easier than before the pandemic. Every person is finding life tough for their own unique combination of reasons:

  • Isolation vs too many people at home
  • Too much work vs no work
  • Too noisy vs too quiet
  • Worrying about family vs having no family to worry about
  • Losing weight through worry vs comfort eating
  • Too much to do vs nothing to do


In recent years, and across industries, an increasing number of companies have begun adding wellness and mental health care resources to employee benefit packages and the unique challenges created by COVID-19 have only accelerated the demand. But while mindfulness, meditation and fitness classes are well-intentioned, they really are only putting a plaster over the real issues.


What is needed in 2021 and beyond are measures that tackle the root causes of employees’ need for mental health support. Organisations and leaders need to be proactive and create a safe, supportive work environment. This means things such as:

  • Instituting policies like flexible working hours and workplaces (e.g home office).
  • Investing in relationship building among teams.
  • Building trust between management functions and employees.
  • Regular assessments of the balance between the employees’ workload and the resources they have.


The sense of purpose, camaraderie, connection and feeling that we’re achieving something that work offers us all is good for our mental state and the biggest impact we can have is to build work cultures that that actively promote and contribute to that.

Add to all of this the time bomb that started ticking in March 2020 related to all the young people whose development and socialisation into the adult world has been delayed, interrupted or perhaps has not happened at all. The number of incidents of self-harming and teen-suicide have risen dramatically for this group. Their mental health issues are now at a higher level than ever. And they will be joining the workforce in the next few years. Organisations and leaders need to have created a supportive culture that is able to help them recover from this gap in their personal development and blossom into the generation that takes us into a better future.


These supportive work cultures should have 6 aspects:


  • people have a work–life balance that supports good mental health;
  • people who are going through a challenging time with their mental health are supported;
  • people feel safe to raise concerns about their mental health;
  • people don’t feel they have to hide any mental health challenges;
  • mental health issues are not considered a weakness;
  • disclosing mental health challenges does not impact a person’s career or stop them from getting a promotion.


Further reading

Accenture: It’s not 1 in 4, it’s all of us. Why supporting the mental health of younger workers starts with organisational culture (2019) 

Autor: Sheila Purdy

Sheila ist „the international mind“ im Team. Geborene Engländerin, war sie auf der ganzen Welt unterwegs, bevor sie sich dem Thema Coaching zugewandt hat. Sie unterstützt unsere Kunden bei Themen wie Präsentation, Verhandlungsführung, interkulturelle Kommunikation – und all das auf sehr lebendige Weise. Eine ihrer großen Stärken ist ihre Einfühlsamkeit, mit der sie Menschen in ihrer persönlichen Weiterentwicklung unterstützt.