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Mental Health In The Workplace

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The mental wellbeing of employees across the UK has hit the headlines recently and, thanks to some high-profile support and new initiatives, is set to rise up the corporate agenda. The Royal Family’s involvement in the Heads Together organisation, which tackles mental health issues in a number of sectors including the workplace, has put the spotlight firmly onto the growing problem.

A study by the Centre for Mental Health found that absence due to mental health in the workplace cost the UK economy £34.9bn last year, while £21.2bn was lost due to related reduced productivity. Other recent research, by the NHS among others, has thrown up some concerning stats:

  • 31% of employees miss work due to mental health issues
  • Doctor's notes for anxiety and stress have risen 14% in a year
  • 76% of managers do not have relevant training to cope
  • 20% of employees suffer with stress daily
  • 33% are looking for a new job as they are so stressed
  • 31% of workers say their employer has little interest in their mental wellbeing
  • Only 2% feel happy talking to HR about it

The figures rise even further when the stats are filtered for Millennials only – worrying when their generation will be the world’s largest workforce by 2020.

Supporting employees who are stressed or having issues isn’t just the duty of or the right thing to do from a moral perspective as an employer; it also makes sound business sense. With staff retention and productivity both drastically affected, it is a solid investment to put initiatives and support networks in place. Workplaces are supposed to help employees thrive, not the opposite, but in many cases factors such as increased workload or deadlines are the triggers for anxiety or stress.

Steps employers can take to improve the wellbeing of their employees include:

  • Encourage positive language and give a platform of communication around mental health discussions
  • Invest in training so that key management understand the issues
  • Introduce more flexible working arrangements to accommodate needs
  • Use time management training or task management software to minimise work overload on individuals
  • Raise awareness among employees to reduce stigma and foster a more caring culture
  • Embrace technology that can help, such as the Heads Together digital resources, or wearable devices that can monitor stress levels
  • Clarify your procedures and policies to ensure staff won’t be penalised for absences

As an employer, if you would like to learn more about mental health in the workplace, there are a number of high profile UK charities and organisations working hard to help companies, such as Mind.