Mental health at work: how to talk to your boss about your emotional wellbeing

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It might seem daunting but there are steps you can take to make it easier.

By Lydia Smith

It’s not always easy to speak to friends and family about a mental healthproblem, let alone a manager. But keeping a problem hidden at work may make it worse. So how should you approach the subject with your boss?

We speak to Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, to find out her tips on managing mental health at work:

️ Find a safe space to talk

Making sure you are comfortable and at ease while speaking to your employer is crucial. A quiet, private room where you and your boss aren’t too constrained by time will make the conversation easier.

‘Ideally, your manager or supervisor would create a space for you to talk about any issues you’re facing – personal or professional – by regularly checking in with staff or by including a ‘temperature check’ in meetings,’ says Mamo.

‘It depends on the relationship you have with your manager, but if you have a good relationship and trust them, you could meet them one to one to discuss what’s going on.’

️ Be honest

Being as truthful as you can be about a problem is essential as it will help your employer understand what you need.

It’s best to be concise about your feelings. You might want to consider having Mind’s resource information for employers to hand, as it provides trusted information on conditions and ways to provide support.

Being as truthful as you can be about a problem is essential as it will help them meet your needs.

It might also be helpful to have a note from your doctor to explain what the problem is, how it may affect you and what adjustments might help you manage your work.

‘It is more and more common to find workplaces where people feel able to talk about their wellbeing and mental health,’ Mamo says. ‘As attitudes begin to change, more companies and organisations are asking the right questions and taking the right steps to start the conversation with their employees.’

️ Make reasonable suggestions

Ultimately, it is up to your employer to decide the best way to provide support, but you can suggest reasonable changes including: changes to your working area, changes to your working hours and occasionally working from home.

If you need to, have someone from HR there.

‘Having someone from HR present will make the meeting more formal, and normally wouldn’t be necessary in the first instance,’ Mamo says. ‘But if you didn’t get anywhere with the first meeting then it might be a sensible next step.’

️ Remember your rights

If you have a mental health problem and you want the protection of the Equality Act, you have to tell your employer about it, Mamo says.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments.

‘Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments for an employee who has a disability, which can include a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on normal day-to-day activities,’ she explains.

‘Typically, when it comes to mental health problems, these are small, inexpensive changes, such as more regular catch ups with managers, change of workspace, working hours, or breaks. But we know that too often, people stay quiet, fearing being deemed incapable, unable to cope or weak. It shouldn’t be that way.’

Net Doctor

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