According to Mind, 60 per cent of employees say they’d feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing. But are employers actually doing enough to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
Well, According to ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), mental ill-health (including stress, depression and anxiety) is responsible for 91 million working days a year. This is more than any other illness.
Unsurprisingly, this absence costs a huge amount to employers and the UK as a whole: poor mental health is thought to cost more than £8 billion, plus another £15 billion in reduced productivity. Moreover, the cost of replacing staff who leave work due to mental ill-health is £2.4 billion a year, and the cost to UK employers is estimated to be approximately £30 billion a year.
The cost of poor mental health in the workplace is unsurprising when you consider the fact that one in six workers experience depression, stress or anxiety, and four in ten employees are afraid to disclose mental health problems to their employer.
So, it would appear that we’re not yet doing enough to prevent or tackle poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. A moderate level of stress is likely to improve performance levels, but prolonged periods of stress can cause illnesses of all kinds. And while there’s generally better awareness about mental health in recent years, awareness is only half the battle. Instead, employers need to be better educated and equipped to handle and respond to poor mental health and wellbeing.
As well as engaging with the expertise of mental health charities such as Mind and others, there are numerous steps employers can take to make mental health and wellbeing a bigger priority at work:
- Get senior leaders on board — when CEOs demonstrate that they’re taking mental health seriously, high regard for the subject filters down through the organisation.
- Create the best working environment you can — this means eliminating triggers as far as possible. Triggers that you should look to eliminate include:
- Working long hours without breaks
- Unrealistic deadlines or expectations
- Unmanageable workloads or lack of support with large workloads
- Inability to use annual leave
- Regular lone working
- Poor internal communication and poor managerial support
- Job insecurity and poorly managed/communicated change
- Don’t just presume that because your staff are in the building that they’re well; they might not be ‘doing OK’. Provide workshops and events promoting mental wellbeing (and encourage attendance as much as possible).
- Introduce flexible working arrangements to accommodate for other stressors in their lives (such as health matters, relationships, family commitments etc.). Use HR systems and HR software to manage processes that facilitate these kinds of arrangements; if your office has the right infrastructure the workplace can become more flexible.
- Support line managers to aid in dealing with mental health challenges — they’re often the first people a member or staff will go to. Mind’s recent research found that 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.
- Put your money where your mouth is — encourage employees to call in sick, using their allowance of annual sick leave if they need to take time off work for mental ill-health, as well as physical ill-health.
- Involve staff — use staff surveys and focus groups, hold monthly or quarterly meetings, and create staff forums and networks to find out how else you could improve your workplace to better handle mental health matters.
There’s some way to go before we have a happier, healthier and more productive workforce, but with these actions in place, we’ll be significantly closer.