Mental health for managers – the six traps you should avoid

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A mentally healthy workplace can help your business – and your people – thrive.

But your role as leader is critical.

And unfortunately, as working from home starts to become an embedded part of our daily lives, the job of a manager supporting their team is getting harder.

“How can we care when we’re not there?” asks Anna Feringa, the head of Jonah Group’s mental health practice who offers an online workshop helping managers learn how to create the conditions for a mentally healthy workplace.

“It’s easy to go on autopilot – zombie mode – so are you there, or not there?”

The problem with the sudden rise of working from home is that the normal cues people use when working are no longer available. Working in an office gives people physical places to have conversations and provides the chance to pick up on important social cues from leaders and workmates and allows information to circulate in an incidental way.

Working from home leaves people with low visibility, remote leadership, blurred social cues and a requirement that information be searched for.

“Keeping a pulse check on the team is proving to be a great challenge for a lot of the leaders that we’re working with,” says Feringa.

“Just being able to turn up to work and see them all behaving the way they normally behave and laughing the way they normally laugh – we don’t have that.”

This poses a risk, says Feringa, who urges leaders to prioritise one on one meetings

“It’s a really high value exercise and the primary way to connect with your team, so please prioritize and be consistent with your one on one meetings.”

In the one-on-ones, Feringa says being seen to be vulnerable can help protect mental health.

“We need to be open and transparent, share stories, tell your people how you’re feeling. It’s only going to grow trust and when we get trust people are likely to tell you more.”

Feringa also offers some tips on the mistakes many leaders make when dealing with mental health issues.

She calls these the “six don’ts”

  • Don’t assume. Feringa says the world is getting very comfortable with using terms like depression and anxiety but it is important to remember you are not a doctor and not fall into the trap of labelling people.
  • Don’t delegate or delay. Feringa says it is a leader’s job to have the conversation with a team member and it cannot be delegated to elsewhere in the organisation.
  • Don’t give advice in areas you don’t have expertise in. Feringa calls this “guess counselling” and says it is dangerous for two reasons – if the advice is inaccurate it can cause harm, but if it is accurate you can create a situation where the staff member comes to rely on you.
  • Don’t be the only point of contact. “If they’re coming to you over and over for help and support and guidance, you need to remember to share the load and have your other support services at the ready,” she says.
  • Don’t think you have to have answers. “You don’t have to have all the answers when it comes to mental health conversations. And if you try to have all the answers, you may even hinder the situation.”
  • Don’t get care fatigue. “There needs to be a limit because you’re going to get care fatigue and burn out. Make sure that you have a list of local areas mental health services and offer those support services. It gives you space and it takes that person to a program where someone is qualified and able to take that conversation further.”


Mental health is one of the critical challenges of our age.

Almost half of us will experience a mental health condition in our lifetime – and most people expect their workplace to be a source of mental health support.

As a manager and leader, your role is critical.

Join us for a half day, livestream program facilitated by renowned expert in Workplace Mental Health Anna Feringa.

Anna is an award-winning International Speaker, Trainer and Workplace Mental Health Consultant.

Anna, who has been supporting leaders facing mental health challenges in the workplace for more than 17 years, leads Jonah Group’s Mental Health practice.

In a world where more than 2 million die every year from work related accidents and disease, safety is Jonah Group’s mission.

Whether mental health or physical safety, Jonah Group’s experts teach people the science of risk and help leaders build sustainable cultures of safety.

Jonah Group. Saving Lives. Protecting business.