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New research reveals top tips for businesses to better manage mental health at work

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Managers need the skills to create a positive environment for mental health at work to reduce stress among staff and make businesses more productive, according to a new report.

The report makes the human case that employers should prioritise mental health in the workplace to include careful management of those with mental health conditions, making reasonable adjustments to working practices where appropriate, and educating their whole organisation to challenge stigma.

Leaders and line managers have a crucial role to play in reducing anxiety levels, according to the report, and those trained in 'people skills' are best equipped to build trust and respect among their teams and individuals.

This trust can help staff to disclose their mental health conditions so that appropriate support can be provided, according to the report.

The report is based on independent research commissioned by workplace experts Acas. It found that workplaces that create positive environments for mental health are more productive over time as they can reduce employee absences due to stress and anxiety at work.

Acas Chair Brendan Barber said:


"One in six workers in the UK have poor mental health and our new research reveals that bosses can create a positive environment through education and training for staff, especially line managers.

"Businesses that promote a positive mental health environment at work have better staff morale, fewer absences and a low staff turnover. They also reap business benefits such as remaining productive and competitive. 

"Acas has also published new guidance today on anxiety, which includes top tips on how to handle mental health issues in the workplace for managers and employees."


The report includes six key recommendations that employers can adopt to have a more positive effect on employees' mental health and create a better environment for all, including:

  • Develop a positive environment for mental health at work. Businesses must recognise what causes them to become 'anxious organisations', such as poor people management skills among managers.
  • Ensure that line managers are well trained around mental health. Line managers need the right level of support for the critical role that they play in the promotion of positive mental health at work. They need to be able to detect mental health problems early and, where appropriate, encourage employees to disclose their condition.
  • Make sure everyone has a role to play in promoting positive mental health at work. We need a joined-up organisational response involving senior managers, line managers, people with mental health conditions, their co-workers, human resource managers, trade unions, and others. This should ensure that businesses have no gap between organisational policies on the management of mental health at work and practice.
  • Use Acas advice on best practice at work. Employers should keep an open mind about the tools and advice they use to promote positive mental health. Acas will be working with its partners and interested organisations to produce more in-depth advice on the 'mental health continuum' so that organisations are able to gets to grips more easily with the full complexity of mental wellbeing.
  • Challenge the stigma of mental health. Mental health organisations should be encouraged to support employers in increasing employee awareness about mental health to challenge the persistent stigma that surrounds mental health and to overcome the self-stigma that prevents many people from disclosing their condition.
  • Empower staff to make them feel and work better. Organisations should explore how the empowerment of staff can help to promote positive mental health, helping to provide more control over working lives in the context of organisational uncertainty and change.

Acas has also published new advice for managers today on how to manage anxiety in the workplace. It advises that managers should be confident and trained in the skills they need to support staff who may be experiencing anxiety at work. Informal and formal conversations will help establish a rapport with members of staff as addressing issues early and maintaining good communications is crucial.

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Notes for editors

  1. Essex Business School carried out the research, which is based on six in depth case studies with employers and employees navigating mental health issues at work. 
  2. For media enquiries or to receive a copy of the report please contact Steven Mather on 0207 210 3749 / For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.
  3. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.  Acas provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law. We support good relationships between employers and employees which underpin business success. We also provide good value, high quality training and tailored advice to employers. Our expertise is based on millions of contacts with employers and employees each year.  Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law. For more information, check out the Acas website: