Blog: Supporting good mental health at work with care and compassion


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) promotes organisational approaches employers should take to protect workers from work-related stress, but we know that stress, anxiety and depression make up 51% of work-related ill health cases.

In this blog, HSE Policy Advisor Chantelle Wilson talks about showing care and compassion towards employees, the importance of responding to concerns around work-related stress and how employers can do this.

Chantelle Wilson, Policy Advisor in the Work-related Stress and Mental Health Policy Team at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

By Chantelle Wilson, Policy Advisor in the Work-related Stress and Mental Health Policy Team at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE)

Prior to joining HSE’s Stress & Mental Health at work policy team, I worked in a range of different settings providing psychological support. I have learnt so much from these experiences, both as an employee and through supporting others. These experiences have helped to shape my own outlook around supporting good mental health at work.

For me, showing care and compassion towards employees and valuing them not just for the work they do, but as human beings, is a really important part of this. If you see your workforce as humans first, then prioritising their health, safety and wellbeing should naturally follow.

Many of us will experience stress, anxiety or depression at some point during our working lives. We know that work-related stress can be influenced by a range of different factors including high workloads, challenging work environments, insufficient support or resources (to name just a few!). Although work-related stress, anxiety and depression make up 51% of work-related ill health cases, there can be barriers to employees raising their concerns and/or employers acting on them appropriately. If work-related stress concerns are not raised and acted upon, an individual’s mental health can deteriorate. This inevitably impacts on their ability to do their job, increases the likelihood of long-term sickness absence and is more difficult for the person to recover from.

So what can be done to reduce the risk of this happening?

  1. Reach out: start conversations about stress and mental health in the workplace. Create opportunities where people can safely share their concerns and how they are feeling, both informally and formally, one to one and as a team. Let people know this is something you care about and take seriously. Conversations about mental health reduce stigma and encourage people to speak out if they are struggling.
  2. Recognise: look out for signs of stress in individuals and teams. Are there any stress factors that could be impacting on them? If so, are they resulting in changes to their thoughts, feelings or behaviours? Has there been any notable changes in the individual or team?
  3. Respond: discuss and agree some action points and solutions. What practical steps can be taken to reduce the risk of work-related stress? Can you offer support or signpost?
  4. Reflect: monitor and review the action you’ve taken. Were the measures you put in place enough? How is the person coping now? Can any further actions be identified? What must you continue to do to support the person?
  5. Make it Routine: conversations about stress and mental health in the workplace should be routine. Having one conversation is important, but it isn’t enough. Checking in with someone about how they are feeling and coping at work should be as normal as checking in with them about a piece of work.

Often, it’s not about having the perfect response (do they even exist?), it’s about responding with compassion and empathy, being non-judgemental, trying to understand, taking the person’s concerns seriously, working together to find solutions and reviewing them at a later date. In my experience, the thing that people tend to appreciate most is that you care and you want to help them.

Employers can help by making their supporting messages loud and clear: It’s okay and normal to feel however you feel, we care that you feel that way, we don’t think less of you, we will try our best to understand, we will take it seriously and we will help and support you as much as we can.

More about Working Minds…

HSE’s Working Minds campaign brings together a range of tools and support to help businesses and workers have these conversations, and action they can take to prevent stress and support good mental health at work. Download the one-page round up.