At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has left millions struggling with their wellbeing, research from Samaritans showed that 31% of male callers cited heightened feelings of loneliness and isolation due to COVID-19. Businesses must acknowledge this deterioration in men’s mental health and mark International Men’s Day by identifying how they can support and empower their male employees.

To help employers, employee benefits expert Sodexo Engage and Martin Robinson, Founder and Editor of The Book of Man,have established three key ways businesses can address the mental health needs of male staff members.

  1. Adopt a flexible approach

When considering employee wellbeing, it’s often too simplistic to lump employees into categories or assume their preferences. Not everyone is the same, and nor will they respond to measures in the same manner. Some men, for instance, may find it difficult to share mental health concerns during 1-1s with their line manager, at the risk of seeming ‘weak’ or believing it might sabotage their career.

Employers should tailor support to suit the personal needs of their employees. Providing multiple points of contact, as well as employee assistance programmes can cement the foundation of a flexible and agile support system. While line manager engagement is essential, away days with casual bonding sessions may prove more conducive to generating conversations. Arranging regular talks and sessions with external counsellors also encourages men to seek support, as staff may find it easier to open up to people outside of their organisation.

  1. Raise awareness through a shared activity

The Mental Health Foundation found that only 36% of NHS referrals to talking therapies are men, and charities like CALMattribute higher suicides rate for men to their reluctance to engage with mental health support until crisis point. Stigmas associated with seeking therapy are still acting as a barrier, reinforcing the social construct that men need to ‘have it all together’.

Instead, initiating a campaign that allows men to do something, and then talk, may in fact encourage more people to open up. A shared activity, such as Movember, not only increased people’s awareness of prostate cancer, but ultimately bonded men and stimulated important discussions around men’s health. Employers should look to implement similar initiatives, albeit on a smaller scale, from fundraising activities to company-wide tournaments.

  1. Build a culture of consistency

A consistent approach is essential when encouraging men to utilise the support that is on offer. Companies should reiterate that there is an open-door policy and that support is always on offer, regardless of new working patterns. By regularly spotlighting wellbeing services, during team meetings or one-on-ones, men can access resources when they feel ready and safe to do so. Consistently raising awareness of potential mental health issues can also help create an inclusive culture, which normalises asking for help. In such an environment, men can trust that their colleagues won’t humiliate them and that there’s no consequences for their career if they speak out.


Martin Robinson, Founder and Editor of The Book of Man, comments:

“In many organisations, men’s issues can go unnoticed, often because men are overwhelmed by the stigma of appearing as a ‘strong male’. International Men’s Day is a great tentpole to bring some of these aspects of being a man to light. As people tend to be socialised in different ways, businesses must tailor their wellbeing initiatives to align with the individual needs of their employees and adopt an inclusive approach. For instance, certain groups may be more receptive to partaking in an activity, where they can do something tangible whilst simultaneously raising awareness. If we factor in these little things, we can go a long way in breaking down the stereotypes that consume people today.


“We’re looking at a long game of gradual change, that is likely to take place over generations rather than years. Despite this, it’s important that we all try to lead the way.”



Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:

“International Men’s Day is more than a ‘silly retort’ to International Women’s Day, but a valuable platform to bring men’s problems to the fore and discuss the often overlooked issue of men’s mental health. ‘Toxic masculinity’ is still rife in the workplace, forcing many men to bottle up emotions. It’s the responsibility of employers to challenge these stigmas with strategic and comprehensive support systems.

“Whether it be informal away days, sessions with external counsellors, or mental health first aid training, normalising seeking support and reiterating that employees can still ‘reach the top’ if they ask for help is a fitting place to start.”