As you might now, May is Mental Health Awareness month and it is such an important topic to discuss, especially for our small businesses.

Your employees don’t simply leave things at the door when they walk into the office. The things that are on their mind tend to stay there, and they can interfere with focus and productivity.

Excelerate America has a new eBook that we created in partnership with Justworks, called How To Create A Phenomenal Company Wellness Program. This eBook covers what to include in your company wellness program, including mental and emotional health. 

Download the Free Company Wellness Program eBook

I have some best practices to help you navigate these delicate conversations around mental health.

First up is Engaging in the Dialogue

As a business owner, your employees might proactively bring up their mental health issues with you, but in some cases, they will not. If someone is experiencing performance or attendance issues that you suspect might be due to mental health issues, initiate the dialogue yourself.

Try opening with, “You don’t seem yourself today, is everything okay?” From there, be sure to ask open-ended questions (such as, “Is there anything we can help with?”) and reserve your judgment.

You’ll also want to inform the employee of the types of support that are available.

 Stressed businesswoman sitting at her desk in the office

Next is Helping with Work Stress

While many employee mental health issues stem from their personal lives, it may be the case that work stress is a contributing factor. If so, this is an area where you as an employer can certainly help. There may be things about your company’s culture or this individual’s workload that could be worked on to alleviate some stress. Try asking what part of the workday do they find most stressful or What tasks are most stressful?

Maybe they don’t feel confident in their job — help re-train them. Focus on tasks the employee is most confident in to boost more positive feelings toward work. And when possible, offer accommodations in the way of flexible work and remote work.

Finally, is finding them an advocate

Another great way to give employees more support is to pair them up with an advocate or mentor in the office, preferably someone that they don’t report to directly.

This mentor should be someone the employee can trust and turn to when they need help or professional guidance. Having someone at the manager level will be able to frame things in a professional capacity, and help be a coach on how to communicate and process issues as they pertain to the workplace. It’s great to have the mentor and mentee set up regular check ins, say once a week, where the employee can bring up anything they want.

Discussing and dealing with mental health issues in the workplace can be difficult, but if you are committed to caring for your team, it’s an effort well worth undertaking.


Leslie Youngblood is the Creative Director for Excelerate Americathe fun, smart service for small businesses. Have you recently dealt with Mental Health in the workplace? Share your experience with her now by emailing her at

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