People are stressed.

Well, how is that for an understatement! 2020 has been a cracker of a year, and not in a good way.

Bushfires, COVID19, lockdown 1 and 2, compulsory mask-wearing, massive job losses, recession.

To be honest, I’m feeling a little rise in the old adrenalin levels just from this one sentence summary of how and why we are all so stressed.

So, what can you do about it?

I get it, you manage a group of great people, and you are the kind of leader I’m always banging on about– you lead from a position of putting your people first.

When one of your team comes to you and tells you how stressed/anxious/depressed they are, you immediately want to fix the problem for them.

If you happen to also be an empathetic person, you probably want to wrap them up in a giant virtual hug as well. And take on their shiz as your own.


BTW, in case you weren’t already aware, there is this little thing called the law, which mandates you look after your employee’s wellbeing, including their mental health. This is not that kind of blog however, so let me just leave the phrase ‘reasonable accommodation’ here for now, as well as a link to the Human Rights Commission long but very useful Mental Illness Guide.

Ok then, how can I help my seemingly mentally unwell team member?

  1. Create a safe environment

How? There are many ways. One is to broaden understanding of what mental health issues are. This resource from Heads Up provides 10 tips for how to make your workplace mentally healthy.

Talk about mental health regularly to help reduce the stigma around it. Looking after our employee’s mental health is as important as ensuring team members have the correct protective clothing and equipment. Include mental wellbeing discussions in regular team meetings.

For example, in that next Zoom meeting, start off by asking everyone how they are doing. Simples.

  1. Model and promote authentic behaviour without fear of repurcussions

A friend of mine recently shared a story of a social event she attended (pre- ISO 2.0), where a group of middle aged women were discussing how one of the husband’s in the group was suffering from a mental illness. He was considering telling his manager, to request some changes with his work.

ALL the women (save for my friend), strongly advised the woman to tell her husband he MUST NOT disclose his condition, so as not to put his quite senior job at risk. This both horrifies me, and yet is not really a surprise.

It is 2020 and we are living through a pandemic that has changed our world. We need to do better at accepting the role mental health plays in our lives and allowing people to feel free to be their authentic selves at work.

Which absolutely includes providing the kind of environment where when a person feels unwell, be it physically or mentally, they are not afraid to discuss this with their manager.

  1. Intervene early by identifying problems

This table below illustrates common symptoms of mental health issues that may indicate your team is experiencing difficulties.

If you notice any of your team members displaying these changed behaviours, then move onto step 4.


I mean I say this a lot, for many different reasons. It really is a no brainer. In this context, here are some key prompts.

Before you approach your team member, ask yourself:

Am I willing to really listen to what Alison has to say?

Am I in a hurry to be somewhere else or can I give Alison as much time as she needs?

Consider the where and when.

Check that now is an ok time for them to chat. If not, decide on a better time

Decide where to hold the conversation, preferably somewhere they feel comfortable and where the conversation cannot be overheard by the office gossip.

Be supportive and listen.

Open up with general questions like “What’s been happening with you lately? How are you coping with lockdown 2.0?”

Mention anything specific you have noticed such as “I’ve noticed you haven’t been smiling or contributing as much as normal in our team meetings, is everything ok?”

Be non-judgemental and supportive. Be empathetic not sympathetic.

Brene Brown’s short video on Empathy illustrates this magnificently. The key? not to say things like “Yes, but at least you….”.

Respect their right not to talk to you.

That’s ok, it is their choice whether to speak to you or not. However, make it clear you are there for them if they do want to speak to you at any time.

It is NOT your job to play Doctor.

Remember, no matter how well intentioned you are, it is not your role to diagnose whether your team member is mentally unwell. That is the role of a medical professional. Nor is it your job to counsel them or solve their mental health difficulties.

Instead have a list of professionals handy who your team member might wish to consult. For example, details of your EAP (employee assistance provider) or external counsellors.

Helping your team to manager their mental wellbeing is a tough gig, but also a vitally important part of your role as a manager.

Really, we have only scratched the surface here. If you would like to know more about how you can help manage your team’s mental wellbeing, including taking part in a facilitated program, then contact or via 0400 019 599.

Oh, and stay safe out there. #wearthefX*#ingmask