There is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s minds that this has been a challenging year like no other, and it has taken its toll on so many, for different reasons. More than ever there needs to be a focus on ensuring the wellness of your employees now and for the future. By focusing on the health and wellbeing of your employees you will have healthier, happier and a much more motivated workforce, which is a key element for your business success.
However, many workplace wellbeing initiatives are little more than a first aid kit and a list of first aiders on the staff room wall (more often than not, out of date). This approach undermines the meaning of ‘wellbeing at work’ and does not truly focus on the issue of mental health in the workplace.
To help understand the importance of wellbeing at work, perhaps take some time to consider the cost of mental ill health related issues on your business. *According to research recently published by the Centre for Mental Health, mental ill health costs UK employers £34.9 billion each year.
The latest statistics released by the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on mental health in the workplace paint an equally damning picture. Over the last year as many as 595,000 UK workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety and 15.4 million working days were lost from stress-related absence.
So, let us start by understanding what is mental health?
Mental health is part of our overall wellbeing and refers to how we feel, think, and behave. It includes how we feel emotionally and psychologically. It can range from feeling a bit down to having a severe mental illness.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as:
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
What are the causes of mental ill health at work?
One in four people will have a mental health problem at some point. Anxiety and depression are the most common problems. Work-related stress can be the sole cause of a mental health problem or it can exacerbate existing conditions.
**Work-related stress, anxiety, and depression accounts for 44 per cent of all work-related illness. Causes can be:
- workload pressures
- tight deadlines
- too much responsibility
- a lack of managerial support
- low pay
- organisational changes
- job insecurity
- not feeling valued or respected
- role uncertainty
- discrimination and bullying behaviour
What is good workplace mental health?
Good mental health at work is where employees feel valued and have the ability to carry out their day to day duties without overwhelming stress or concerns and are able to communicate openly any worries they have in order to progress.
Workplaces should be locations where everyone can thrive regardless of their role or position within the organisation. It is the role of employers, employees and businesses working together to create a thriving and happy working community.
Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%. ***
For instance, were you aware that you can now send your staff on courses to be a mental health first aider?
These are staff members, usually managers, who have received training to be able to recognise the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health. They can start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing mental health problems or emotional distress and signpost employees to the appropriate support services
With employers saying that their health and wellbeing activity has led to better employee morale and engagement (56%) and lower sickness absence (32%), it may be time for the 44% of companies without a standalone wellbeing strategy to develop one1.
(1 CIPD Health and Wellbeing at work report, 2020)
So, with all this in mind you can view a number of companies online that can help you get started e.g. UNUM.CO.UK
In conclusion why employee mental health should be a part of your business strategy
Employers who seek to invest time in creating a thorough “Health & Wellbeing Strategy” to support a robust mental health programme in the workplace reap the rewards of a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. Supporting good mental health at work is huge and valued investment in the business. It helps with staff retention, productivity and ultimately profit.
Especially this year, Remote workers need particular attention and managers should ensure they do not take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, simple steps to improve mental health in the workplace enables employers to save significantly on costs in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism. Managers of remote workers should take steps to ensure they are not isolated from the rest of the business.
As an employer you can help to manage and prevent stress in the workplace, by understanding your teams needs and issues, however small. Wellbeing, including mental wellbeing, should be integrated into performance management where regular check-ins with staff can identify stress factors and enable support to prevent problems from becoming worse.
When employees feel supported, have a good work-life balance and are given the opportunity to communicate about mental health at work openly, positive outcomes will follow.
Employers who ignore the problem are risking the health of their workers, the potential success of their business and the health of the wider economy.
If your ready to start your plan, then here is another good site that maybe useful: thehealthyemployee.co.uk
*We can provide links to sources of information within this blog upon request