Stress in the Workplace

16 Jan 2018
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Looking after staff welfare makes good business sense

The recently published Thriving At Work report has revealed the scale of the impact mental health issues have on businesses. With up to 300,000 people annually leaving their jobs due to problems like anxiety and depression, it’s affecting people at an individual level, but also costing businesses up to £42bn per year and the UK economy as a whole around £99bn.

The report was commissioned by the government as part of Theresa May’s commitment to transform mental health support in January 2017. May appointed Mind CEO, Paul Farmer, and mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson, to head the enquiry on how staff could perform at their best.
Farmer says it’s time for employers to better support workers suffering from mental health problems, and the report suggests that companies should create a mental health at work plan. In fact they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those suffering with physical health conditions.
The reasons for this are down to a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. In some organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don’t necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.
However on the flip side, there are significant numbers (approximately 15% of people at work) who continue to work with symptoms of an existing mental health condition which suggests that with the right support they can thrive in employment.
The report recommends six core standards:
1. Creating, implementing and communicating mental health at work plans
2. Developing mental health awareness for employees
3. Promoting effective people management through line management
4. Introducing routine monitoring of employee mental health and wellbeing
5. Employers encourage open conversations about mental health and support available
6. Provide employees with good working conditions to ensure they have a healthy work-life balance as well as opportunities for development
The report goes on to encourage organisations to take responsibility for the mental health of their staff, to shift the stigma around it. By so doing, the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible, making it less of a taboo subject.
Many organisations may support the findings and recognise that staff welfare is an issue but they don’t know what to do about it. “The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff”, Farmer said.
And large employers are expected to go further with calls on the government and public sector to lead by example. The government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services which are quick and convenient to fit around employment, and to consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.
The report has been welcomed by the Institute of Directors, who comments that mental health is not just a moral issue but a business one too, and business leaders should put themselves at the front line of addressing the challenges.
So what can a company do to start helping their employees, which will also help them in the long term?
1. Invite a mental health professional to give a talk or run a workshop, bringing the issue into the open (this can reassure employees that this is a valued area, so increase loyalty and opens up opportunity for discussion)
2. Consider providing additional support in terms of time/financial, for those staff who need it
3. Ensure staff take adequate breaks in their working period, consider various techniques such as a simple break away from their desk, providing relaxation audios from professionals, breathing techniques, power nap, this can be individually tailored – make this a guilt-free break
4. Putting together a mental health plan that is openly accessed which will help with staff retention and staff recruitment (this can also be an important step when approaching customers as it may be part of the tender process, to see what social responsibilities you have to your staff and to their families)
5. Offering regular mental health and wellbeing reviews, including scaling ‘happiness’
If you would like to learn more about how you can address stress in the workplace or would like to arrange a meeting to discuss your company needs for talks, workshops, or any of the points mentioned above do get in touch: or call 01798 344879

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