Employee mental health issues

When employees have mental illnesses, effective accommodation can help them stay productive at work. Learn to leverage resources, manage co-worker reactions and support a successful return to work after leave. 

These strategies and approaches can help you respond to employees with mental illness in a psychologically safe way. The resources linked to below can help you:

  • Recognize your legal obligations
  • Identify when an employee may be struggling
  • Improve your comfort level when approaching an employee
  • Support employees with mental illness to stay productive
  • Avoid saying the wrong thing and making the situation worse

Learn more about mental illness at work. Watch these videos to learn from those who describe having a mental illness at work, including tips for managers and employers.  

Identify when employees may be struggling. You don’t need to become a mental health expert to help employees who are struggling at work

Learn how to approach and communicate with an employee who may be struggling. If you feel uncomfortable communicating with emotional employees, check out these tips and strategies to help. 

Refer employees to resources. It’s not your role to diagnose, treat or counsel employees’ personal, financial, family or health issues. In fact, it can be unfair to them because, as their superior, you can influence whether or not they have a source of income. Your role is to support them to be successful on the job. While you can be supportive by listening to whatever issues your employees feel safe disclosing, offering advice can be problematic. Instead, refer your employees to helpful resources. Use this resource to learn how to tactfully refer employees to mental health resources, or create your own Mental health resource list in advance to hand out. You can also give them links to Health resources, Family issues, Financial stress or Caregiver resources

There may be a legal duty to accommodate an employee with mental illness according to Human Rights legislation. This means you may need to modify their job to allow them to work successfully.  Learn your obligations

Accommodate to allow employees to do their job. The objective of accommodation is to help employees who have a disability remain productive. You’ll be more likely to develop sustainable solutions when you ask employees what will work for them. Accommodation strategies can help support the discussion with an employee who has a mental health-related disability. 

Use a tool to support employee success. We developed this comprehensive resource to help you facilitate an accommodation process that deals with issues related to things like meeting deadlines, attention to detail and working relationships. 

Get commitment instead of compliance. When you engage employees in the process of creating approaches that will support their success, they’ll be more likely to commit to making it work.

Engage union reps to help support accommodations if you are in a unionized environment.  A union representative can help support successful accommodation or return to work in many ways. This support can be critical to an employee with a mental health issue and to their ongoing success on the job.

Plan a successful return to work.  An employee’s return to work after a mental health leave is a critical time to support success. You can avoid potential issues by maintaining contact during their leave and planning before their return. Before the employee returns to work, create a plan in collaboration with them to address potential issues, including those related to things like working relationships and performance.

Deal with performance or conflict issues. Learn about conflict and performance management approaches that are effective for employees with mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety. These same approaches can be effective with anyone. You may also need to provide extra support to employees with mental health issues when dealing with organizational change.  

Address co-worker resentment. Managing co-worker reactions to accommodation can help you deal with employee fears, concerns or resentments about their co-worker's accommodation. This is important because unresolved issues can impact the success of disability accommodation.

Prepare to respond. Very few employees with mental illness ever have an episode of psychosis at work, but, by learning how to respond, you can improve the outcome for all concerned.