Newly released national legislation dictates that organizations now have a greater responsibility to provide a physically and psychologically safe environment for their employees.

Managers play a pivotal role in improving employees’ mental health by recognizing the warning signs of mental distress. Training for managers can be provided through an employee assistance plan (EAP), a local corporate educational vendor, or via reputable online resources. Being familiar with your management team and how they best absorb information will help determine the way you provide the training; offering multiple access points to the information is always recommended.

Read: The missing link: The connection between physical and mental health

Once your managers are properly equipped to assess situations where an employee’s wellness is in question, it’s up to them to tread the complex path of confirming suspicions based on employee behaviour, executing a sensitive approach to the employee and opening the lines of communication.

Managers don’t need to act the part of psychologist, and never should. But some early signs can indicate that an employee is in distress and support should be offered by way of an EAP, individual counselling, or facilitating an appointment with a specialist.

Read: Mental health literacy a concern

Signs managers should look for in employees to determine if their well-being is being jeopardized are:

1. Physical changes
• Gaining or losing a significant amount of weight in a short time period can indicate stress, adapting to medication, or depression, among other conditions.
• A suddenly dishevelled appearance when the employee is normally well-groomed can demonstrate a change in their ability to manage their time. This could be the result of a mental health issue or new demands on their work/life balance.

2. Emotional changes

• An employee suddenly becomes less able to handle his/her workload, leaving tasks and projects unattended to without providing any reasoning.
• Relationships with co-workers begin to suffer and an employee is suddenly pulling back from co-worker friendships, internal clubs or lunch groups.

When managers observe these changes, they needs to act swiftly but always within their realm of expertise. Early detection and a sensitive intervention could be enough to prevent further distress for the employee and minimize the impact on the organization.

Read: Link mental health to your business strategy

Employees can play a larger role in identifying distress in peers than some employers realize. Voicing their anonymous and objective concerns about changes in a colleague’s behaviour can be especially helpful in organizations with a large manager-to-employee ratio.

By engaging employees at every level in the organization to take some shared responsibility in maintaining everyone’s well-being, each individual receives empowerment and accountability.

Karley Middleton ‎is a health and performance consultant at Hub International in Winnipeg. These views are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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