Why are millions of workers struggling with mental ill-health?

Did you know, at any one time, one in six workers experience mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety? Mental ill-health is having a huge impact on performance in the workplace and to back this up there have been many reports published about the impact of mental ill-health in the workplace, why it’s a growing issue and why it needs to be tackled by employers.

There are two main reasons this issue is increasing in the workplace which needs to be addressed and placed high up the agenda.

The first, and the primarily reason, is the responsibility businesses have with regards to the well-being of employees and their duty of care. The second is down to the huge impact it’s having on business revenue.

Now is the time to step up and address these growing issues head-on and partner with your employees to better support mental health in the workplace.

Related costs to the business are higher than you think

ACAS has reported that mental ill-health problems cost employers in the UK a whopping £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence. So why aren’t employers actively doing more about it?

The answer is pretty simple! Although one in four of us will suffer mental health problems during our lives and while it’s becoming increasingly common we still find it a difficult and taboo subject matter to talk about – there is still a huge stigma attached.

It often seems too personal or too difficult to talk about. You might feel comfortable talking to a colleague about surface level issues that don’t run too deep, but when it comes to your mental health, where do you start? How do you approach such a ‘sensitive’ subject?

If individuals such as line managers or businesses generally, do not implement an open door policy, this could prove very costly to both parties. The Centre for Mental Health charity estimates that employers should be able to cut the cost of mental health both in terms of lost production and replacing employees by about a third through improving their management of mental ill-health in the workplace.

What the statics say

According to a recent survey carried out by Business in the Community (BITC), 20,000 people took part in the study, said a staggering two-thirds (62 per cent) had experienced ill-health caused by work and nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they had experienced symptoms in the past month.

  • 62% of worker reported that they had experienced mental ill-health caused by work
  • 24% of UK workers have experienced work-related mental ill-health in the past month
  • 22% of line managers have had training on mental health at work
  • 2% of employees surveyed said they had discussed mental ill-health issues with HR

How to help tackle the issues?

Remove the stigma around mental health – design a programme to tackle the stigma through improved education, training and awareness.

Focus on the practical things you can do to help – some of the factors that influence an individual’s mental wellbeing in the workplace that you can actively do something positive about, you can help by monitoring workloads, employee involvement, the physical environment and the nature of relationships at work and how positive they are.

Develop an open door policy – many employees dealing with mental ill-health often prefer to help themselves through outside means such as medical help. However, as an employer simply showing empathy and support can count for a lot.

Reassure and support individuals – positive feelings about work have been linked with higher productivity, profitability and employee loyalty so make sure your workplace environment is encouraging, supportive and demonstrates that it wants to listen.

Address how you manage stress management – if you do not manage stress in the workplace it will have countless negative impacts on the employees and the business, not to mention the economic cost – all of which will lead to illness, absence and underperformance.

In essence

Thankfully, there is an increase in employers who are now realising the considerable benefits of promoting mental health at work, but it’s still a slow-burner!

Employers need to recognise the scale and impact that poor mental health has on the workplace and take significant steps to reduce the risk of their workplace being a contributor.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees to respond to mental ill-health, just as they would to a physical illness. They need to start thinking about the huge impact it is having, not only on bottom line results and also on employee welfare.

Businesses should better educate and equip their managers, providing the tools to support and shift the organisational culture to help managers manage employees with mental health issues.

It makes good business sense to nurture a culture of openness that supports employees with mental health issues, so they feel supported at work and want to stay in their place of work.

Jenna Gorham MCIPD
HR consultant, aspire cambridge

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