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Line managers able to spot signs of poor mental health

A majority (67%) of line managers know how to spot early warning signs of poor mental wellbeing, according to new research.

Seven in 10 (71%) line managers said they felt confident having a conversation with a colleague about mental wellbeing at a time of crisis, according to the study from health consultant Working to Wellbeing.

The majority (57%) of employees agreed, and said they feel confident having a conversation with their line manager in a time of crisis.

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Julie Denning, managing director and chartered health psychologist at Working To Wellbeing said that while the statistics are encouraging, there is still room for improvement.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “On the one hand it is encouraging that many line managers do feel confident supporting colleagues with their mental health, particularly in more complex cases. But there is still more to be done as many do not have the necessary confidence, support or skillset that is necessary.”

Despite the confidence from line managers, one in four (24%) said they did not feel they had received sufficient training from their employer to best support employee wellbeing.

Denning added: “Line managers, who are often at the coalface and whose role is critical to supporting their colleagues at work, need to be given the tools and support to enable them to have the confidence and skills to best support their workforce.” 

Kate Robinson, co-founder of online therapy provider My Therapy Assistant, said training for line managers could be improved to better support workers' wellbeing.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Line managers’ critical role is early intervention by identifying issues and tackling them before they escalate. A lot of training focuses on equipping line managers for dealing with mental health in a particular meeting – such as annual appraisals – whereas they need to be supported in spotting signals and guiding team members to the right professional support.”

Robinson added that line managers should not be expected to provide in-depth counselling, but instead be able to actively listen and direct employees to instantly accessible mental health tools.

She said: “We need to develop line managers’ confidence and human skills to be there with another person when they’re struggling and respond compassionately. Line managers also need easy access to practical mental health tools to use ‘in the moment’ with teams, as well as instant advice from expert therapists.” 

She also emphasised the importance of supporting line managers’ own mental health.

She added: “It's the responsibility of businesses to ensure there’s the right professional support that line managers can seek advice from or talk to ensure they’re not becoming drawn into trying to rescue or solve something that’s not for them to solve or feeling depleted by hearing other people’s difficulties. 

“Professional workplace wellbeing support providing only counselling or basic cognitive behavioural therapy isn’t enough; line managers need access to the right range of experts for the wide range of different mental health situations.“

The research was conducted among 510 UK line managers and 1,068 UK workers by Opinium Research for Working To Wellbeing between 11-13 October 2022.