HR Tips for Mental Health in the Workplace


One of the benefits of our social climate over the last couple of years is the positive impact that has come to mental health awareness in the workplace. One of our team members vividly remembers asking their former manager for the evening off to recuperate their mental health, and was rebuked. Needing a mental break wasn’t valid as a reason for a day off in many workplaces prior to 2020. Luckily, our hands were forced into experiencing the immense benefits of taking care of our mental health in the workplace. In this article we’ll examine how business leaders, managers and HR professionals can stay proactive about mental health at work.

Common Mental Health Afflictions

Mental health in the workplace is a very broad subject for HR managers and executives to consider. It can range anywhere from being overworked, to having a severe IDD (Intellectual or Developmental Disability). In the workplace, the degree of severity can no longer play a part as a yardstick to measure if the person needs a day off. As a compassionate leaders and culture-builders, it’s important to be cognizant of the different invisible illnesses others may be going through.


In 2021, surveys showed that one in four Canadians showed signs of depression. Depression can have symptoms akin to overeating, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, irritable behaviour, feelings of emptiness, and suicidal thoughts. Managers can listen for employees constantly complaining of being tired, burnt out, or a lasting downturn of mood and drive.

Thankfully, once diagnosed, it’s fairly treatable. Though it takes a lot of participation from co-workers and loved ones to help the person keep engaged and working towards better days.


Anxiety is often paired with depression. It’s the unending or overwhelming feeling of dread, fear, guilt or uneasiness. People can feel this from time to time as it’s often a side effect of stress. For someone with an anxiety disorder however, it rarely goes away. It usually is constantly floating just below the surface. No matter the situation they are in. Managers and HR professionals can support employees with Anxiety disorders by keeping things well defined and clear – well defined job descriptions, expectations, work plans / project plans and priorities can go a long way to reducing unnecessary anxiety at work. Panic Disorder is a subset of anxiety. It causes panic attacks, feelings of terror when there’s no danger, and feelings of loss of control.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

More and more awareness for OCD has come into light thanks to social media. People post videos documenting their “rituals” and intrusive thoughts that happen constantly throughout their day. It’s not a need to be clean or tidy in all cases. 


Stress is a common reason why people ask for mental health days. Though it is not classified as a mental disorder. Stress has comparatively lighter symptoms to the rest of the disorders mentioned before. Though it can have long lasting effects. Stress manifests as chest aches, exhaustion, high blood pressure, digestive problems, muscle tension or jaw clenching, and feeling like your heart is racing. All of these, if left unchecked can leave lasting issues with your body. Weakened heart muscles, ground teeth, eating disorders, and many others. Managers should listen for employees constantly stating that they are ‘crazy busy’.

Benefits of Giving Employees Mental Health Days

For The Worker

Many times, when someone is afflicted with a mental disorder, or a high amount of stress, a day off is valuable. For those with depression, they can recenter themselves, maybe finally clean a room they’ve been putting off. They can go for a walk or sleep in. Sometimes doing an act as small as taking a long shower is enough to boost the mood of someone with depression and lift them from a low period. 

For people with stress, they get the chance to have a day to focus on themselves. We often pack the weekend with activities, especially if it’s nice out. We forget to leave time for relaxation and mental recovery.

Those with anxiety or panic disorders, where environment is a huge factor, a day to themselves can prepare them for a longer string of busy days.

For the Company

You may not think that there are benefits to not having an employee in for a day. However, studies show that many who return from vacation are more focused and productive. Studies have found that chronic stress can make it difficult to achieve certain tasks and cause memory problems. (Alina Health).

By giving your team a day to recover and rest, you’ll gain more than what they would have done, overworked at their desk that day.

What You Can Do as an Employer


Implementing a system like an EFAP (Employee and Family Assistance Program) is a great option. EFAPs are the next layer deeper than benefits. This platform provides secure services that your team and their family members are able to use at any time to discuss a wide variety of personal, family, or work related issues that they may be struggling with. It gives an outlet to you and your team to have access to mental health assistance. You can speak with an HR consultant or a benefits broker about these programs.

Flexible Schedules

Another route is to adapt to a flexible work schedule. This allows for the team to be able to work coherently with their schedules. This is especially helpful for parents, people who have other responsibilities, or who are maybe just at their most productive in the earlier or later hours of the day. To keep it somewhat organised, you can have core working hours of 5 hours or so, and then allow people to flex around it.

Set the Example

Business owners should be setting an example and taking time off also to set the precedent. Most employees can tend to feel guilty if they are taking off mental health days when the head honcho works through everything. 

Be sure to take a day for yourself, even if you feel you don’t need it, trust us, you do. The company will survive for a day and you will feel miles better for the break.

Sick Days

If you notice your employee or coworker having a tough time, talk to them. Sometimes people feel as though they need to “push through it”. They think work is too busy, too important, that they can’t miss a day. Unfortunately that can elevate their symptoms. One day off can make a huge impact.

Along with this, BC mandates five days of sick leave for part time and full time employees per year.

Be a Mental Health Awareness Hero

With all of the symptoms of the various mental health afflictions we mentioned, how many were physical reactions? Not many. This is why, in the past, mental health awareness was low. Managers and higher-ups didn’t see it as a valid reason for a day off since there was no physical sign.

We are fortunate that the last two years have made the workplace face the problems of mental afflictions. Mental health awareness is now more socially acceptable, which promises a stronger foundation for companies.

Take the month of May to research other mental health afflictions and learn their symptoms and effects. Maybe you’re struggling and you don’t even realise it. Life doesn’t have to be tough all of the time. Sometimes our brain is working against us when it doesn’t mean to, we just have to make sure to treat it nicely.

Entreflow offers a HR service that helps businesses implement policies that help achieve financial, targets, reduce churn and improve employee mental health while at the workplace both on-site and remote.

If you feel like you need help, apps like BetterHelp or Telus eHealth offer online therapy for those who don’t want to go into an office.

Helina Patience, CPA, CMA
Author: Helina Patience, Founder, CPA, CMA, BA (Hons), BEd

Helina is a CPA, CMA with over fifteen years of experience in finance & HR within multinational companies, across many industries. Also the CEO of entreflow consulting group where I help small to medium-sized businesses get organized, grow, and crush their goals. I hold vast global experience after living and working in Australia, India, the UK and Ireland. Connect on LinkedIn.

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