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Picture this: you’ve accepted a student onto a graduate scheme after being wowed by their application. Your team is gearing up for their arrival, and you’re ready to welcome a fresh face into the company.

Now imagine you are that graduate: university is drawing to a close, and you’re about to finish your final exams and assignments. As summer approaches and the grass grows greener, so do your thoughts about the next phase of your life, eager to start work at your dream job.

What will be an amazing next step for both employer and employee will also be daunting for those entering straight into the workforce from the familiar confines of home or university.

It’s the beginning of their new chapter, and they are starting it with you.

A Statistical Overview

Everyone has a mental health status as much as they do a physical health status. But just like a boxer may be more prone to punches, a graduate worker might be more prone to feelings of stress or anxiety as they transition into your company and take on their new professional responsibilities. For reference, stress accounts for 45% of all working days lost as a result of poor health , and paired with the fact that the majority of mental health issues arise before the age of 24 , graduate workers are increasingly susceptible to mental health difficulties whilst taking their first step on the career ladder.

A study of 2000 participants found that while 62% of Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) have taken a mental health sick day, only 24% have explained the real reason to their employer . With the possibility that some graduate workers may not feel comfortable sharing their mental health issues, it’s essential to know how to detect the signs of someone struggling.

Graduate Wellbeing

An Employer’s Guide to Spotting the Signs

With an ever-growing graduate workforce already established to be more at risk of suffering from mental health issues, you must know how to pick up on the signs of mental ill health amongst your new employees (and your wider team, of course):

  • Poor concentration: Feeling overworked can cause fatigue and brain fog, and new or graduate workers are particularly likely to feel the heat in the first months of work as they get used to their workloads and the rhythm of the working day.
  • Social isolation: Stress and subsequent low mood can cause some people to withdraw from group activities. Perhaps you’ve noticed that a member of your team has stopped having an after-work drink or is taking lunch alone. Even the most minor changes in behaviour can reflect bigger issues which may need addressing.
  • Missing deadlines: Everyone has blips, but sometimes mistakes at work can indicate someone simply struggling to keep a lid on their tasks.
  • Strained workplace relationships: If you find that new workers aren’t gelling with the rest of the workforce, they may be suffering from low confidence or social anxiety, which runs deeper than simply not clicking with their colleagues.
  • Monday morning blues: We all have days when it’s harder than usual to get out of bed when the alarm goes off, but if feeling exhausted or running late starts to affect a graduate employee’s work, it’s best to open a dialogue. There might well be an innocent reason behind a slow morning. However, sometimes it can indicate a difficulty in sleeping or even negative habits that are beginning to impede on their mental wellbeing. These situations can be sensitive, so it’s a good idea to plan how best to start the conversation.

Why Someone Might Be Struggling

There are numerous reasons why your graduate employees might find starting their first job post-university a challenging chapter. These include:

1. Imposter syndrome: Research suggests that around 70% of adults experience feelings of impostor syndrome at least once in their lifetime. This occurs when someone doesn’t feel deserving of their accomplishments, like they’re not good enough to be doing their job, or like everyone else in a certain situation is doing better than them and it’s only so long before they’re ‘found out’. Experiencing impostor syndrome can be reflective of a wider self-esteem issue. It can cause someone to constantly question the quality of work they are producing, feel less inclined to ask for guidance or experience feelings of anxiety, stress, or panic.

2. Isolation: Many graduates have to relocate when starting a new job, and it can be an exciting yet daunting change to have to make new personal and work connections whilst juggling new responsibilities away from the comfort of your home. After all, research shows that 16-29-year-olds are twice as likely as those over 70 to experience loneliness .

3. Financial woes: Life can be expensive, and with the current cost of living crisis affecting property costs across the country, it is even more of a worry than before. From July 2022-2023, private rental prices continued to grow at a record high , and with many graduates renting accommodation, it can be extremely hard to maintain a comfortable lifestyle even whilst working.

4. Burnout: The shift from university straight into a graduate role can sometimes be overwhelming and exhausting. New graduate employees might be used to a more fluid university working day as opposed to set hours in the office or online. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has even recognised burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” , so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on new workers who might not initially be used to their workload.

5. COVID impact: It might seem like a problem of yesteryear to some, but incoming graduate employees have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during their most formative years. From experiencing numerous lockdowns whilst at college/university to their education being placed online, as well as fewer opportunities to socialise or gain work experience, in comparison to their pre-COVID counterparts, current graduates might be less prepared for their entry to the graduate workplace.


In research conducted by Mental Health UK, it was found that only 23% of employees knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot signs of chronic stress and burnout in their workplace .

First Steps

So, if you’ve spotted the signs of poor mental health in a graduate employee, what should you do next?

1. Gain their trust and approach the topic with sensitivity and discretion. This is vital to supporting conversation surrounding what can be difficult topics for new workers to talk about.

2. Remember the importance of listening. The affected employee might be going through something which requires patience to understand or experiencing a situation that neither party can immediately resolve. However, letting someone open up in a safe space can make their load much lighter, and there’s always something you can do to support someone going through a tricky time.

3. Once you have identified the cause of a worker’s decreased mental wellbeing, devise a plan with your employee to help alleviate their concerns and show they are supported.

We Can Help

We run a plethora of courses you can enrol yourself and your team on to help improve mental health across your workplace, including learning to identify the warning signs of low mood, stress, and burnout. These include:

  • Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Skills Development: These bespoke MHFA England-approved courses are designed to provide you and your team with a comprehensive grounding in Mental Health First Aid, ensuring you’re ready to support your employees’ emotional wellbeing to the best of your ability
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: An 8-week study found that a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” significantly reduced stress and the inflammatory response caused by it . With guidance from our mindfulness and meditation coach, your employees can begin to do just that
  • Staff Wellbeing Challenges: Each of our Staff Wellbeing Re-Energise Challenges is designed to motivate and empower employees with a focus on improving healthy eating and lifestyle habits, boosting energy levels throughout the day, and building resilience to home and work-related stress.

Ways to Boost Morale

There are many ways you can boost your employees’ morale and safeguard your graduate workers’ emotional wellbeing. These include:

  • Assisting through heavy-load management: Perhaps a new graduate has taken on their first big task, or a team is starting a new project which requires additional time and resources. Whilst the end result might be worth the extra effort, it’s never a bad idea to offer additional help and resources where possible.
  • Assigning companions: Like an assigned tutor or supervisor, it might be a good idea to connect a graduate with a member of the team to ease the first couple of months of work.
  • Organising team social events: When you work hard, it’s important to make time to let off steam and socialise, too. Whilst some employees might catch up for a drink after work, it often helps to organise a company/team-wide social get-together to ensure that everyone is included and no one’s left behind


Include a section in your morning meetings to make clear the support plans you have in place. That way, you can ensure you demystify the process of seeking help within your company.

Maintaining Good Mental Health is a Journey

Finding the balance between succeeding in a new job and maintaining your wellbeing can be difficult. However, having open discussions with your graduate employees will help cultivate a positive working culture where new employees will feel able to ask for support and let you or their line manager know when they’re struggling with something.

In recent years, the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found in their Student Development Survey (2020) that the vast majority of firms (97%) provide mental health support, and three-quarters (78%) have a mental well-being policy ₁₀. These are promising figures and show a nationwide positive trend in the growth of workplace mental health support. If you make sure you have the right tools in place, students will be more inclined to apply for a graduate job at your company and shine within their new role.

Maintaining an open dialogue with graduate workers regarding their emotional wellbeing creates a safe and productive environment where they feel supported and looked out for. We must remember that graduate workers currently joining the workforce have faced challenges during their formative years that none of us could have imagined, making supporting their entry into the workplace even more paramount.

By looking after the needs of our graduate employees today, we’re creating tomorrow’s generation of managers and employers who will continue to hone workplaces that care for every employee’s physical and mental health.


1. Reino, Vicky, Byrom, Nicola. “Graduate Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace.” Student Minds,

2. “How to Support Graduates with Their Mental Health.” Milkround,

3. “Imposter Syndrome.” Psychology Today,

4. “Loneliness in Numbers.” Loneliness Awareness Week,

5. “Cost of Living Latest Insights.” Office for National Statistics,

6. “Burnout.” Mental Health UK,,drained%20most%20of%20the%20time

7. “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation.” Healthline,

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