Leading on mental wellbeing, transforming the role of line managers

Executive Summary / Introduction

Mental ill-health is one of the biggest public health challenges facing society. It is one of the leading causes of sickness absence in the workplace and can cause immense suffering to those experiencing it – as well as those closest to them. There is an overwhelming business and moral case for employers to address this challenge.


Line managers play a crucial role in promoting positive employee wellbeing. As the workplace continues to evolve at a rapid pace, there is increasing pressure on line managers to deliver business objectives at the same time as supporting the wellbeing of employees. It is vital that line managers receive the best possible support to help them manage these responsibilities effectively. 
This report highlights the evidence for empowering line managers to make a greater positive impact on employee wellbeing. It contains insight from industry experts, advice on how organisations can take action and features the voices of line managers themselves as well as case studies of effective support programmes.

The future
It is time that we provide line managers with the wellbeing support they deserve and take the necessary steps to empower them to promote wellbeing within their teams.
Businesses in the Community is calling on businesses to make Mental Health First Aid training available to line managers to ensure that they are able and confident in supporting employees who may be experiencing mental health issues in the workplace. 
Mental Health First Aid training is available through various providers, and is one of the benefits of Business in the Community wellbeing membership
Key Findings
  • Many businesses lack transparency around wellbeing. Senior leaders have a responsibility to create an open organisational culture that helps all employees recognise wellbeing as a critical issue, and which empowers line managers to engage with wellbeing as a vital priority.
  • Managers are working long hours and feel under pressure in their roles. This is having an impact on their own wellbeing, particularly their personal and social lives. Ensuring that line managers have what they need to maintain their own wellbeing is paramount in order for them to positively influence the wellbeing and behaviours of others. 
  • Managers are facing more varied and diverse demands. Good job design is critical in providing them with the autonomy to manage employee wellbeing and create positive working environments, all whilst remaining flexible to individual employee needs and achieving operational goals. Helping line managers to take a proactive approach on wellbeing and address any issues at an early stage is essential if they are to keep employees well. 
  • Given the prevalence of mental health issues in society, it is vital that all line managers have a core understanding of the topic and feel able to act confidently as the first point of support should they encounter an issue within their team. Strong emotional and interpersonal skills are increasingly important for good management practice as these help managers to build relationships with employees and create an open culture where employees feel more confident seeking support. These skills also need to be prioritised when recruiting or promoting employees to line manager positions.
  • Leaders must commit to fundamentally transforming the role of line managers in the UK. A number of ways are identified in this report in which business leaders can take action to develop line managers’ skills and capabilities around employee wellbeing, including shifting the promotion of wellbeing to be a central role of the line manager.  

The Full Story

Line managers are key to improving wellbeing at work. The role of line managers in crucial in improving employee mental wellbeing and business productivity. We’re encouraging employers to enable line managers to improve their own and others’ employee wellbeing for the benefit of their peers, their organisation and society. This report offers recommendations and pragmatic guidance.

Take Action

We are calling on all business to sign up to the Time to Change pledge and offer pragmatic guidance on empowering line managers to make a greater positive impact on employee wellbeing.
Call to action and recommendations
An eight point check list for employers to ensure they are embedding wellbeing into organisational culture. The document includes two key calls to action that we recommend every business leader takes to drive the issue of workplace wellbeing forward.
Download 316.76 KB
We need to talk about mental health
This presentation includes statistics and facts that you can use to open the conversation in your organisation.
Download 1.14 MB