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How can leaders support employees’ mental health?

10th October marked the World Mental Health Awareness day. Now more than ever, mental health is of essential importance as the pandemic has created spikes in stress, anxiety and uncertainty, both for leaders and employees. Even if we haven’t been directly impacted by the virus, we are all dealing with added stress levels, whether we acknowledge it or not, and the long-term effects of the pandemic are likely to remain even when the crisis is over.

Authentic leadership

Successful organisations are built on their ability to be agile and resilient in times of change, and this is where compassionate and authentic leadership makes a difference. Research shows that authentic leadership can cultivate trust and improve employee engagement and performance, and understanding that these days aren’t like any others and adopting a supportive approach are the cornerstones to long-term success in a remote working world.

More often than not, leaders are so focused on the wellbeing of others and getting things done, that they forget to take care of themselves. Leaders who model healthy behaviours and support their team’s mental health are setting an example for prioritising self-care to prevent burnout, and although managers will be on the front lines of addressing mental health issues, the senior leadership team needs to take action as well.

Uncertainty breeds anxiety. According to YouGov, 62 percent of adults in the UK feel anxious or worried. This number is much higher at 80 percent of under 25s who say that existing mental health issues have gotten worse since the pandemic began. Leaders should avoid making assumptions about what their direct reports need as they will most likely need different things at different times. Checking in regularly, particularly at transition points and keeping teams informed about any organisational changes can help to reduce uncertainty and drive motivation.

Walking the talk

A recent study has shown that employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating have been 23 percent more likely than others to experience mental health declines since the outbreak. Research suggests that almost 46 percent of workers say that their organisation doesn’t proactively share any mental health resources with them. Sharing these and sharing them again, and making mental health conversations part of the company culture can help to normalise the use of these resources. Even with the recent shift in mental health awareness, shame and stigma still prevent many employees from using the resources available to them, therefore ongoing communication and education are essential.

Even in uncertain times, the role of the leader remains the same – to support their team members, including their mental health. Leaders should remove stress where possible by setting and managing expectations about workload, prioritising what needs to be done and acknowledging what can slide if necessary. Actions speak louder than words, and these difficult times are the moment when leadership actions truly matter. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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