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Big Conversations from Small Talk in the Workplace

January 4th, 2017 by Suzanne Sweeney

MIND, SANE, Business in the Community (BiTC) The Wellcome Trust and other leading employers are all taking steps to overcome the stigma of discussing mental health issues in the workplace.

In a recent survey by BiTC 62% of respondents said they had experienced mental ill-health caused by work with nearly a quarter experiencing symptoms in the past month alone. In the same report worryingly BiTC found that despite significant numbers of employees struggling with mental health issues, many were left to “suffer in silence”

As we all may imagine, sharing how you may be feeling with others at work may be linked to fears about what will happen if this is made known. Capita Employee Benefits said in a recent survey they conducted only 33% of their respondents would feel comfortable talking to their employer if they were suffering from a mental health problem despite nearly half of them knowing someone who was struggling with stress and anxiety.

MIND have also now begun to develop mental health awareness training for line managers and introduced a WorkPlace Well Being Index. They calculate that stress and poor mental health costs UK business an estimated £26bn a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence. Stark facts like this are promoting other organisations such as The Wellcome Trust to develop MHFA’s – Mental Health First Aiders with individuals opening up conversations about mental health through monthly meetings.

Our conference this year wants to look at this issue and our headline feature in this newsletter provides more information. How do we help individuals to explore bigger issues from small talk?  We may all be able to associate with being the “Busy Bee” at work and in life but sometimes when a “chance” encounter over coffee/lunch or the water cooler sparks an unexpected reaction from someone it can make us realise that others may not be coping. Do we know those individuals we work with who are barely holding it together and needing support whilst struggling on in silence?  It’s easy to be glib and say a problem shared is a problem halved but sometimes to begin to explore what is currently happening in a person’s life is difficult to do without a somewhat different angle. A formal “sit down and now tell me”…. approach often is intimidating, scary and unwanted.

Our tools and resources have been used over the last twenty years to try and take that different approach. A seemingly simple concept – four circles on a piece of paper for WLPG, or twelve cartoon characters, or food images on a plate – all have sparked deeper reflections and thoughts from those using them.

Our champions and the Windmills team will be sharing what they have learned from this work at our event and there will also be an opportunity to engage in this for yourself to ensure your own health and well-being is in as good a condition as you can make it.


Come along and see how you can support others.












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