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Mental health for you and your staff

Mental health for you and your staff

Kiwis spend many hours of their day at work, so the workplace has a big impact on their mental wellbeing and affects productivity. Here’s how to look after yourself and your employees when it comes to mental health.

Your own mental health

As a business owner, remember to look after your own mental health and wellbeing, for the sake of yourself, your whānau and your business.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing outline ways to think about how you can create good mental wellbeing – within your workplace and within yourself.

Five ways to wellbeing at work toolkit(external link) — Mental Health Foundation


Get involved (along with your staff, perhaps) in community-based activities, supporting fundraising for a good cause or charity (strong businesses need strong communities and vice versa). It’s also about appropriately, authentically and publicly showing gratitude to others.

Be Active

At work, schedule walking meetings, provide standing desks, and encourage stair use. When away from work, find something active that you enjoy, eg biking, walking a dog, or hiking.

Keep Learning

Seek out opportunities to learn and sharpen your skills, and set interesting challenges for yourself. Encourage and enable your staff to do the same.


At work, encourage social interaction and collaboration. This might be daily, at team meetings, or at regular social events so teams can connect with each other – and with you. You could also hold team building days, sponsor fun runs, family days, team sports, shared lunches and various workplace competitions. When away from work, spend time with friends and family.

You can find some tips to beat isolation on our webpage:

Tips to beat isolation

Take Notice

Think about how the physical work environment could be improved. Encourage and role-model mindfulness – take breaks during the day, eat away from desks, get up and stretch. Notice when employees have done well and compliment them – this can also make you feel good.

As an employer, you set the workplace culture for the entire organisation. Employers and managers who have good mental wellbeing habits in their own lives will experience the benefits personally while encouraging employees to do the same.

Mental health and wellbeing support

Your workplace

Feeling connected to workmates, feeling valued and having healthy relationships between employers, managers and employees, are major drivers for creating strong mental wellbeing. And a mentally healthy workplace is good for everyone – and your business.

Why workplace wellbeing is important

A healthy work environment includes:

  • Zero tolerance of discrimination – Ensuring any mental health issues are treated the same as physical health.
  • Zero tolerance of bullying – Immediate action is taken if reported, no matter who it involves.
  • Mentally healthy behaviours are part of your work culture – Positive ways of working are reinforced, and activities and exercises supporting these are promoted.
  • Positive interactions based on trust, respect and civility – As the employer, role-model these by following through on what you say, and immediately addressing rude or unacceptable behaviour.
  • Strength-based support for employees – Recognise what employees can do in their work and build on their strengths.
  • Promote teamwork and reduce social isolation – Make sure your people work together for a common aim, even if their tasks don’t overlap.
  • Acknowledge emotions in the workplace – Be aware of how people are feeling and respond with empathy and support.
  • Build a culture where people feel they can ask for support – Make discussing emotions easy to talk about, and have support readily available.

The Mental Health Foundation has many resources to help you build mental wellbeing in your workplace, including ways to promote positive communication, reduce workplace stress, and prevent bullying.

Working Well guides and resources(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

Supporting staff

Most employers want to do the right thing by employees experiencing mental distress but may not know what to do.

It can be very difficult to see people in distress and easy to think you could make it worse. But often small actions, even just listening, can make a big difference.

Be a good employer

Someone who is experiencing distress might be anxious about being treated fairly. If they trust their employer or manager, they are more likely to discuss their challenges sooner and more honestly. That allows you the chance to put strategies in place early, or even prevent problems arising.

Having these conversations with you staff can be difficult, to help your workers decide what and how to share with you, visit our webpages:

Problem solving and sharing

Mental health in the workplace

Provide a safe environment

Make talking openly about mental distress a comfortable, everyday thing. Provide information and raise awareness about mental health issues for your employees, including alcohol and drug issues.

Walk the talk on discrimination

Make sure your workplace doesn’t discriminate on an employee’s mental health status.

Avoiding discrimination in the workplace(external link) — Like Minds, Like Mine

Support employees returning to work

When they are ready, talk to your employee about what work they are ready for (or not) and create a return to work support plan with them. Make sure you concentrate on what they say they can do, rather than what you think they can’t.

Avoid labels

Sometimes a person experiencing mental distress will have a diagnosis. But mental distress can affect different people in different ways and people do recover. If there are issues at work because of mental distress, concentrate on managing any behaviours rather than what you think the diagnosis means.

Be clear, but be flexible

You still need the work to be done, but keep an open mind about different ways to achieve this, eg, offering flexible working conditions, working from home, shorter hours or doing different tasks.

Flexible working arrangements

Respect confidentiality

Maintain confidentiality in line with your employee’s wishes and any privacy requirements.

Protecting customer and employee information

Value insights and experience

Often people learn a lot about themselves and others through their challenges and experience. That can make them more empathetic, self-aware and emotionally intelligent. They also tend to be loyal, if their employer sticks by them.

Open Minds guide for managers(external link) — Mental Health Foundation

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