First-time login tip: If you're a REBA Member, you'll need to reset your password the first time you login.
18 Sep 2023

Top tips for developing resilient and supportive line managers

With mental health often still a taboo subject in the workplace, businesses need to equip managers with the tools and skills to spot and help employees who may be struggling

Top tips for developing resilient and supportive line managers.jpg 1


Recent research from Aviva revealed that just one in 10 employees who have experienced certain mental health conditions sought help from their line manager over the past year.

Meanwhile, just 14% of employees surveyed said they would discuss their mental health with a work colleague and only 5% said they would speak to HR or a wellbeing champion. Perhaps most worryingly, one in five of those employees surveyed said they would not seek help from anyone.

The research also found a significant disconnection between employee and employer attitudes to whether the right support was provided to those struggling with their mental health in the workplace.

While over three-quarters (79%) of employers surveyed agreed that they’re ‘good at recognising when team members/employees are under pressure’, only 44% of employees surveyed agreed their line manager is ‘very good’ at recognising when they are under pressure.

This in unlikely to be news to those who have been working in this area for the last few years and while many businesses recognise the importance of open and honest conversations, there is still a way to go.

We need to bridge this gap and help both employers and employees feel supported when discussing mental health issues in the workplace. As with many things, education is key to help reduce the stigma around mental ill health.

1. Give line managers tools and guidance

Provide a strong internal framework for line managers so they feel comfortable checking on the wellbeing of their employees and colleagues.

This can be as straightforward as pulling together all your wellbeing resources into one place, helping managers have a one-stop shop for resources and signposting to help combat the more common sources of poor mental health, such as lifestyles, stress and relationships.

But this could also involve promoting the best internal contacts, including who to approach in HR or promoting dedicated occupational support such as employee assistance programmes or mental health toolkits that can help managers spot the warning signs of poor mental health. This may be especially important for less experienced managers – the lowest confidence in spotting poor mental health is often those in the youngest age bracket (71%).

2. Provide regular training and development

Taking time to listen to managers, to understand more about the challenges they face, can be incredibly valuable. Understanding their needs may help you to focus the training requirements for your business, which can be important should budgets be restricted.

Incorporating and prioritising mental health and wellbeing training as part of continuing professional development of your managers will reap its own rewards. A strong training programme could also include peer-to-peer support, offering an arena for sharing best practice and mentoring opportunities.

Another approach shown to be successful is the introduction of wellbeing champions and advocates. This can give significant development opportunities to those interested in this area.

3. Make health and wellbeing a priority

If managers have the right tools, are supported to learn more and are encouraged to develop their leadership skills, the challenges facing your business will come into focus. You are then able to incorporate strong health and wellbeing imperatives into your corporate and strategic objectives to help bridge that line manager and employee disconnection.

By embedding mental health and wellbeing into the core of your business, you empower managers to prioritise not just the health and wellbeing of their employees, but themselves as well – developing their own resilience and ability to support those around them.

Sophie Money, Insights and Wellbeing manager at Aviva says: “Our research provides a helpful way to assess our progress and identify areas that need improvement.

“Employers, especially line managers, play a crucial role in creating an environment where employees can be themselves and feel assured that they will receive support when needed.

“This insight serves as a reminder that employers should continue the work they have started by equipping their line managers with tools and resources. Additionally, fostering a culture that embraces open and honest conversations at all levels is essential in addressing health and wellbeing issues before they escalate.”

Research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Aviva, with 1,001 UK employers defined as senior managers or above and 2,005 UK employees defined as middle managers or below between 23.01.2023 and 27.01.2023. Censuswide abides by and employ members of the Market Research Society, which is based on the ESOMAR principles

Related topics

In partnership with Aviva plc

Our purpose is to be with you today, for a better tomorrow.

Contact us today


Webinar: How digital change will transform workforce wellbeing & engagement

Crafting a resilient HR strategy to future-proof your employee health offering

Wed 27 Sept 2023 | 10.00 - 11.00 (BST)

Sign up today