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How to Spot a Friend or Colleague in Need

With almost all daily communication taking place online during lockdown, it is twice as hard to spot if someone is struggling. So we’ve put together some key things to look out for during this time, in the virtual workplace and beyond.

Social Media

Ultimately, we’re creatures of habit. Is there someone you know that frequently shares content via social media? Has there been a significant drop in their activity? It’s worth reaching out to check in and see how they are doing.


It’s easy to say, ‘I can’t tell how someone is saying something via text’. It’s not an entirely false statement, we lose a number of aural and visual factors required to process how a person communicates. However, we all have habits in this area too. Does someone use a lot of expressive punctuation? Are their sentences peppered with emojis and exclamation points, or colourful language and humour? Has this person started using more full stops and shorter sentences? If someone you know or work with is showing strong irregularities in their written communication this could be a sign that something is wrong. Don’t address it openly in front of the group if something stands out in a work-based chat – reach out to them individually and lend an ear.


Is someone working later than everyone else? Are they almost invisible in workplace chats and keeping their head down? Don’t jump to the conclusion that they are finding the work too difficult or that they can’t handle the pressure. You don’t know what might be bubbling under the surface.

In this scenario, you don’t necessarily have to focus in on the individual. You can implement team based catch ups that take place toward the end of each day. Here, people can openly discuss where they are with certain tasks and offer up their help to each other, in order to wrap things up for the day. This promotes a supportive and positive environment, and will also show the individual that they are not alone. If the person is still pushing themselves too hard, reach out privately and offer support.

Keep in Touch

So, your colleague has opened up to you after you decided to check in on them. Don’t assume that once they feel calmer, everything is better and back to normal. Keep in touch with regular contact. This doesn’t mean obsessively messaging the person and patronisingly asking, ‘are you OK?!’ every hour – that will put pressure on the person and they will feel as if you’re waiting for them to be ‘fixed’. Just drop in to a chat a couple of times a week, showing that you care and share your experiences to empathise with the person. Or simply talk to them about something you know they are passionate about!

Safe Space

It can be difficult for an employee to discuss their mental health with a colleague or someone senior to them in an organisation. It can feel like it may be seen as if they are a ‘problem’, difficult to manage, or build fear of a negative impact on their performance reviews.

If the person is suffering from a condition that has been declared, suggest scheduling a regular fifteen minute chat at the end of each working week. This would be an informal chat about anything at all and provide a platform for the person to speak freely about how they feel, what they are looking to do over the weekend, or that new game they’re hooked on. Providing a safe space to speak without judgement can be a great aid in releasing some of the built up pressure a person may be feeling.

If you don’t feel like the best person for the job, float the idea to the individual and ask if they would like to set something like this up. If they agree, allow them to nominate a person they feel comfortable with.

For detailed employer advice on managing and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff, ACAS are hosting a webinar on Tuesday, May 19th at 10.30am BST. To register, please visit the ACAS registration page HERE