Experts in the Media

Joe Hart – Kochies Business Builders

Organisational Psychologist | Director of Joe Hart – True Perspective

How can we better support men’s mental health at work?

This week is Men’s Health Week, so let me ask you an important question: as a man in the workplace, do you feel safe and supported enough to speak up and let your manager know when you’re struggling? Unfortunately for many men, the answer to that question is still a resounding no, writes organisational psychologist, Joe Hart.

So how in 2023 do we help men feel psychologically safe enough to put their hand up at work and tell their bosses that they’re struggling at home, at work, in a relationship or with family?

What I know to be true from the men I see and being one myself, is that men don’t open up in the workplace like women do, and we need to work out ways to encourage them to do so. Women are much better at finding their workplace tribe and asking them for help when something is going on. Men tend to operate more as islands, only reaching out when they’re actually drowning.

Supporting men’s mental health at work

Like it or not, there’s still a stigma attached to mental health and men, even in our thoroughly modern world. Depression often isn’t seen as ‘real’ for men. There’s a ‘you’ll be right mate, go to the gym, have a beer with your mates’ kind of approach, and this needs to change.

Here’s my top tips to encourage blokes to get talking and create mentally healthy habits at work:

Don’t assume they’ll approach you

As a manager, be proactive and organise regular one-on-one conversations. If you’re busy and you don’t have time, I encourage you to make time.

Connections take time to create and the only way you can do that is by having regular catch-ups in a safe space that let men talk.

Give them time and space

If you lead a team, make yourself available so people can talk to you if they want to. If you’re constantly in meetings or never in the office, men won’t feel they can ask if you have five minutes to spare.

And if you notice someone struggling, allow them some space in their schedules until they’re willing to talk it through.

Have honest conversations

Don’t avoid difficult conversations. If you’re brave and honest enough to share your own struggles, it will encourage the men in your teams to do the same.

Be a positive role model

Lead by example. We all have lives outside of work – allowing men to see that it’s okay to take time out for personal issues, including counselling, grieving and paternity, or to take time off to reconnect with family and friends, encourages them to feel they can too.

Sit down with them and ask what’s important to them in both work and in life – it will shed a lot of light on who someone really is at their core.

Lead with the truth

When someone’s going through something like a divorce, it’s often very obvious at work where we spend the bulk of our time. To avoid speculation, it’s always best to be up front. Not telling people the truth creates distance, but telling the truth makes them feel like they’re part of your trusted inner circle.

If we’re going to smash the stigma around men’s mental health, it needs to start with not being afraid to have the difficult conversations, and being honest about what we need to feel better supported in the workplace.

One thing I know for sure … if you lead with the truth, you’ll never lose your way.

If you’re in need of help, check out these Australian free mental health support services: