Behaviours that might indicate an employee is struggling with their mental health:

• Not getting things done – missing deadlines or forgetting tasks.
• Erratic or unacceptable behavior.
• Irritability, aggression, tearfulness.
• Complaining about their workload.
• Being withdrawn and not participating in conversations or out-of-work activities.
• Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and/or sedatives.
• Inability to concentrate.
• Indecision.
• Difficulty remembering things.
• Loss of confidence.
• Unplanned absences.
• Changes in eating habits e.g. eating less/more than usual.
• Arguments/conflicts with others.
• Increased errors and/or accidents.
• Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project.
• Being adamant they are right.
• Working too many hours – first in, last out/emailing out of hours or while on holiday.
• Being louder or more exuberant than usual.
• Negative changes to ways of working or socialising with colleagues.

Physical signs might include:

• Constant tiredness.
• Sickness absence.
• Being run down and frequent minor illnesses.
• Headaches.
• Difficulty sleeping.
• Weight loss or gain.
• Lack of care over their appearance.
• Gastrointestinal disorders.
• Rashes/eczema.

How to have an effective mental health conversation:

• Avoid interruptions – switch off phones, ensure colleagues can’t walk in and interrupt
• Ask simple, open, non-judgemental questions
• Avoid judgemental or patronising responses
• Speak calmly
• Maintain good eye contact
• Listen actively and carefully
• Encourage the employee to talk
• Show empathy and understanding
• Be prepared for some silences and be patient.
• Focus on the person, not the problem
• Avoid making assumptions or being prescriptive
• Follow up in writing, especially if there are agreed actions.

Examples of appropriate questions to ask:

• How are you doing at the moment?
• You seem to be a bit down/upset/under pressure/ frustrated/angry. Is everything okay?
• I’ve noticed you’ve been arriving late recently and I wondered if you’re okay?
• I’ve noticed the reports are late when they usually are not. Is everything okay?
• Is there anything I can do to help?
• What would you like to happen? How?
• What support do you think might help?
• Have you spoken to your GP or looked for help anywhere else?

Examples of questions to avoid:

• What do you expect me to do about it?
• Why can’t you just get your act together?
• Your performance is really unacceptable right now – what’s going on?
• Everyone else is in the same boat and they’re okay. Why aren’t you?
• Who do you expect to pick up all the work that you can’t manage?

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