Mental health in the workplace

Source: NHS Employers

Tools and resources to help you make positive improvements to mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Ensuring staff are supported and cared for with their mental ill health is paramount. The NHS Health and Wellbeing framework encourages NHS organisations to ensure that prevention and self-management is available for all staff by taking the following actions.

Our infographic provides a range of up-to-date key statistics and facts about workforce mental wellbeing in the workplace. Employers can download the infographic to use within their organisation to raise awareness about the importance of positive mental wellbeing at work for NHS staff or as part of their business case to further the workforce mental wellbeing agenda at a strategic level with senior leaders.

Create a healthy and supportive working environment

  • The organisation’s culture does not stigmatise people with mental ill health and actively encourages people to maintain good mental health and feel able to talk about it.
  • Line managers have training and support to assist staff who disclose a mental health issue.
  • Working conditions promote good mental health.
  • Policies and practices are embedded that encourage a good work/life balance.
  • Access to taking regular breaks.

Addressing workplace loneliness 

The Mental Health Foundation outlines that there are strong links between loneliness and mental health. Furthermore, research by Young et al (2021) demonstrates that workplace loneliness is harmful to both employees and employers, and can negatively impact staff engagement. Organisations should actively ensure staff can form healthy long-term relationships with their co-workers. The Campaign to End Loneliness advises on five key factors to address to achieve this:

  1. Culture and infrastructure – organisational values, embedding loneliness within wellbeing activities. This includes creating a culture that supports healthy social interactions and relationships between all staff, regardless of seniority, background and job role.
  2. Management – enabling managers to identify those experiencing loneliness. Upskill managers to enable them to have honest wellbeing conversations to understand how employees are feeling both in and outside the workplace. Read the enabling and supporting staff to work from home web page for tips on supporting staff working from home.
  3. People and networks –  implementing networks to support remote working. Ensure there is a healthy mixture of work-related and social activities that are inclusive and accessible to all staff. This could be through encouraging team work on projects, regular social check-ins, and establishing staff networks covering a range of interests. It is also about creating opportunities for staff to connect one-to-one. Mentor/mentee programmes can often help staff establish meaningful relationships with colleagues.
  4. Work and workplace design – using tools and systems to promote connections.
  5. Wider role in the community  tackling loneliness beyond the immediate workforce. Personal circumstances are important to consider, and the issue of loneliness should be addressed holistically. Does your organisation provide the flexibility and work-life balance for employers to socialise outside of work?

For further details, read the government’s Employers and Loneliness Guidance.

Upskill staff and line managers

  • Staff and line managers have access to information about how to improve their own and others’ mental health and wellbeing through self-management.
  • Training for line managers covers how they can promote the mental health and wellbeing and be aware of the signs and symptoms of poor mental health.
  • Training or advice is available on making reasonable adjustments for mental health e.g. changes work hours, temporary redeployment.

Staff have access to interventions

  • Peer support.
  • Stress management exercises.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Physical activity.
  • Sleep advice.

How managers can support workplace mental wellbeing 

Managers have a key role in improving the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff, but many NHS managers do not feel confident in speaking to their staff about mental health as it’s often perceived as a challenging issue.

Mental health can fluctuate along a spectrum in the same way that physical health does, and there may be times when it is better than others. Mental health problems should be supported in the same, honest and consistent way that physical health problems are.

Mental health problems affect one in four people at some point in their life and account for over 30 per cent of sickness absence in the NHS. Mental health problems cover a range of conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, personality disorders and psychosis.

Managers do not need to be experts in mental health but an understanding of how to support staff and how to have open conversations about mental health problems will help create a positive culture around mental wellbeing and will create opportunities for staff to feel safe talking about their mental health.
Engage and inform

  • Engage with staff so they understand their own objectives, their teams’ objectives and the organisation’s objectives. This includes giving staff the opportunity to ask questions and feed back their views.
  • Give staff as much control as possible over how they deliver their work while ensuring they have the right skills for the job.
  • Monitor the workload of staff to ensure what they are expected to deliver is realistic within the timescales and resources available.
  • Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged, bullying and harassment is not tolerated and people are treated with dignity and respect. This includes encouraging staff to talk about mental health and creating a safe environment for staff to disclose their own mental health problems.
  • Keep members of staff informed of organisation or team changes. This includes providing a rationale for actions and decisions taken.


  • Encourage staff to have a good work/life balance including facilitating flexible working where possible. Make staff aware of your organisation’s flexible working policies.
  • Have protected time when managers are available for staff to come and speak to them.
  • Treat all staff consistently and fairly and provide positive feedback to staff when they do a good job.
  • Encourage exercise and social events. Physical activities are shown to boost staff health, team work and mental wellbeing.
  • Make staff aware of the internal resources that are available to them such as occupational health or employee assistance programmes.
  • Follow up on problems on behalf of the team as soon as they arise.

Employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced the HSE Management Standards which provides information on how to assess and control the risk of stress. The standards cover six key areas which are the primary causes of stress at work and there is a degree of overlap with the principles of supporting mental health and wellbeing listed above. The HSE has also produced guidance on how to implement the management standards.

For further information on supporting mental health and wellbeing please take a look at Mind, the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group and Mind in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

For further guidance take a look at our supporting staff who are experiencing mental health issues.

Click here to read the source guidance in full.