It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue in the UK each year. While awareness of mental health is growing, there is still a long way to go in reducing the stigma and ignorance around this topic. Most people spend the majority of their time at work, so if you manage staff in your workplace, you are well placed to notice the warning signs of mental health issues in your team and offer support.

Ignoring mental health issues in the workplace can have devastating consequences, both for individuals and the business itself. The following warning signs can indicate that a member of your team is suffering from poor mental health.

lack of motivation

Lack of motivation


If an employee is struggling to get motivated with their work, it could be a warning sign that they are suffering from depression. There are many reasons an employee may lack motivation, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Rather than a mental health issue, it could simply be that they’re no longer inspired by their role or find certain tasks tedious.


However, persistent lack of motivation may be due to personal issues, illness or difficulty coping at work. This is more likely in cases where an employee was previously very motivated, efficient and effective at their role.

If you notice an employee has displayed behaviours characteristic of a lack of motivation for an extended period of time (more than just a few days), make time to talk to them about the possible causes of this. Be sympathetic and make it clear that you care for their wellbeing, as this will encourage them to open up. 

emotional changes - Mental Health Warning Signs

Emotional changes


When an employee displays outbursts of emotion, such as anger or crying, that are out of character for them, it could be a sign that they are struggling with mental health issues. Emotional outbursts are often a sign that an individual is suffering from high levels of anxiety or stress. This could be due to events in their personal life, such as a relationship breakdown or bereavement, or it could be a sign that they are struggling to cope with the pressure of their workload.

If you notice emotional changes in one of your employees, be sure to offer support to help them cope better with any challenges they may be facing. Talk to them about the issues they’re facing and find out what support might be helpful, such as a reduced workload, flexible working or compassionate leave.


Increased absence from work


If an employee’s attendance and punctuality at work have decreased recently, without an obvious explanation, such as physical injury or illness, it could be due to mental health difficulties. Sometimes, people tend to avoid social situations or highly pressured environments such as a workplace when they feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed.

If you notice significant changes in the attendance and punctuality rates of an employee, contact them to check in and see what is causing the issue. Don’t assume they are just lazy or don’t care about their work. Avoid issuing sanctions for this behaviour until you know the cause, as this could create additional stress for an individual who is struggling with their mental health.

Mental Health Warning Signs - Withdrawn

Withdrawing from social situations


It is common for people to withdraw from normal activities or social situations when they’re struggling with their mental health. If you notice an employee has become more withdrawn recently, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Perhaps they are interacting less with teammates, preferring to send emails rather than speak on the phone or persistently declining social invitations.

Some people are naturally less social, and, in these cases, there is generally nothing to worry about. However, when a person becomes uncharacteristically withdrawn, it is likely that something is wrong. Look for changes in behaviour such as finding reasons not to engage in tasks they previously would have confidently engaged with, spending most of their time alone at work when they didn’t before or making excuses not to attend social events.

reduced productivity

Reduced productivity


If you have noticed one of your employees is producing less work than before, not keeping up with their usual workload or has begun to make regular errors in their work, this could be a sign that they are overwhelmed or experiencing mental health challenges.


Speak to your employee if their productivity has declined over time as there could be many different reasons for this. It could be that they are simply not enjoying their job the way they used to, but they might be exhausted or finding the workload too intense.

substance use

Substance use


If you notice an employee is misusing substances such as alcohol, prescription medicines or illegal drugs, there are likely to be reasons behind this behaviour. It is not uncommon, for example, for individuals to increase their consumption of alcohol or use of tobacco when they are feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or upset.

Substance use or misuse is a sign that an individual could be self-medicating to deal with potential mental health issues. This is not something to be overlooked as it is an urgent sign your employee needs help.


It’s important for organisations to have the right resources and processes in place to support employees who may be struggling with their mental health. Awareness is key to early detection, so you can intervene and provide support before any issue worsens. Why not sign up for our mental health awareness workshop to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to detect mental health issues in the workplace?