How managers can support employees with their mental health

As we should all know by now, it’s critical to support your employees with their mental health. Kavita Singh spoke with Paige O’Neill, CMO of Sitecore, who broke down how managers can continue showing empathy and understanding towards their employees' mental health.

Some 60% of adults said their mental health got worse during lockdown. In addition, about one in five adults have experienced some form of depression in early 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. For the marketing sector specifically, it has been challenging for employees on all levels and, according to research conducted by Sitecore, it was cited that 79% of marketers said the past year has been the worst year for them in their careers.

Paige says: “If you unpack why that’s true, we all had to throw our plans out the window, we had to go fully virtual. Marketers especially might have been more social or extroverted in the office. And yet, we had to figure out how to do it in truly unprecedented circumstances. It caused a lot of stress. It’s important to be mindful of that in the marketing world and going forward.”

Be vulnerable yourself

From a managerial perspective, it is essential to show your employees that it’s okay to be struggling on a personal level. However, talking freely about mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress isn’t normalised in the workplace as much as it should be.

Paige says: “Sometimes managers are reluctant to bring it up because they think they might be trespassing on personal boundaries, and employees don’t want to bring it up because they don’t want to seem like they’re having a problem that might impact their perception of them in the workplace. You really have to create a safe space for employees to feel like it’s okay to express what they need at the company.”

The key here is vulnerability. As a leader, it might be beneficial to be transparent about your own struggles as well. Whether it’s a cancelled holiday because of Covid-19, some frustrations at home, or feeling burnt out – all of these feelings are valid to express, so if you start sharing your own experiences, it’ll create a safer space for others to be vulnerable as well. It can be difficult to achieve that comfortable space, but there are some ways to open up the conversation.

She continues: “For me, I’m relatively comfortable chatting and asking how are you doing personally, or do you need help with anything? It is just about taking a moment whether it’s before you cover the business matters or after, and just having that pause and saying: ‘How are you doing? Is there anything you need to talk about?’ Those types of questions create some space for an employee to come forward with things they might want to share.”

Embrace hybrid work balance

Many companies are adapting a hybrid working model at the moment, and it appears to be the favourable decision among employees. In a UK Return to Work report, 70% of UK workers believe a hybrid model to choose when and where to work will result in personal benefits. In addition, 34% said it would improve their overall mental health. With the world being so uncertain at the minute, a hybrid working environment appears to be the healthiest option because of its flexibility.

Paige explains: “Some people have been working from home, and they love it. They’ve been productive, enjoy the lack of commute and have taken on new hobbies and now have more time with families. Others might live alone in an apartment and they don’t just want to be at their apartment all the time by themselves; they want to go to an office.”

People have so many different circumstances and I think the best thing we can do for the help of everyone is to offer that flexibility and be able to provide people with options to do what best meets their needs at any given time.”

Share as much clarity as possible (including resources)

With cases starting to spike up again, it’s essential to provide as much clarity as possible around the logistics of the return to work. You might want to create a one-way system and use signage for employees to utilise; perhaps an email can also be drafted by HR explaining the office flat plan and schedule. In addition, some employees have said they’ve needed some sort of ‘reboarding’ process since they haven’t used office facilities for a number of months. All of these should be painted out for employees clearly and concisely to ease any uncertainty.

In addition, if an employee does approach you with an ongoing mental health issue, perhaps they should be directed towards a resource in addition to your support. Another really helpful resource for employees to utilise can be a list of websites, internal support groups, and communities they can look into if they’re struggling. Some of those resources include:

UK Resources:

US Resources:

Paige says: “It doesn’t all have to be company sponsored, it can be community based, it could be out there for people. I see a lot of sharing going on of employees saying ‘Hey, this has really helped me, maybe this will help you.’ All of those dimensions of resources that we can make available to share that data is great.”

In addition, Sitecore has also extended holiday days to their employees as well since they weren’t able to travel or take the same kind of time off last year during lockdown. These are the kind of thoughtful actions that can make employees not only feel valued but more supported. 

Propolis: Teams & Resourcing

Want to find out more about building relationships with your community? Here at our new community platform Propolis, we offer expert advice in eight different unique topics we call "hives". Join our community hub and find out loads about recruitment alignment structure skills and competencies career pathways!


Check out Propolis today!

Propolis Hive: Teams and resourcing