How Can Business Support Good Mental Health?

15.8 million days lost from work due to mental health issues in 2016 (Labour Force Survey – Office for National Statistics 2016)

Mental health problems are the fourth largest cause of sickness absence and resulted in 15.8 million lost days of work in 2016.  11.5% of all absence recorded in the Labour Force survey for 2016 were identified as relating to mental health.  That’s the equivalent of almost half a day of sickness for every employee, in that year.  If you employ 1,000 staff, statistically you will have 1.98 full time equivalents on sickness leave due to mental health difficulties.

Research reported by the mental health charity MIND suggests that 1 in 5 people had taken at least one day’s absence due to stress and that 90% lied to their manager about the reason for it.

Promoting positive mental health is not only a benefit in reducing sickness, though.  In 2013, MIND identified that 60% of employees say they feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation if they acted to support mental wellbeing.

All employers and managers have responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of their teams.  This is both a moral obligation and a legal duty.  An environment which is supportive to positive mental health can be a benefit to both the employee and the organisation.

How many of our key factors do you or your organisation employ to help engender a more positive mental health environment?

Supporting Mental Health

Positive Culture

Is the mental health wellbeing of the workforce part of the culture of the organisation? Does the board and senior management recognise the challenge of supporting it and are they visible in doing so? Does this attitude permeate through all levels of the organisation? Is there training and support to ensure that the risks and management of mental health are understood and acted upon?

Recognition of Risk Factors

Are the risk factors of poor mental health wellbeing recognised and monitored? Do you have mechanisms to track metrics such as working hours which can indicate underlying problems? Is there an understanding of periods in the business cycle which might present additional risks? Are you confident that you will be aware of issues in your staff’s personal lives which could impact their wellbeing?

Support Mechanisms in Place

Are managers trained to recognise issues to do with poor mental health and are they able to signpost people towards support? Are there in-house support mechanisms which are available to all staff with concerns? Are there any pro-active mechanisms in place to help people avoid mental health difficulties?

Communication and Development

Do employees feel engaged with the decision-making process of the organisation? Are there opportunities for development and advancement? Is there recognition for their contribution to organisational aims?

Open Attitude to Mental Health

Do staff feel able to raise concerns regarding their mental health? Is there concern that mental health issues will compromise careers? Is mental health taken as seriously as physical health? Is there active support to employees suffering with mental health conditions?

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Mental health in the workplace is a huge issue yet many companies fail to have adequate provision in place to promote wellbeing. Effective monitoring and reporting, adequate communication and engagement along with appropriate support mechanisms can have significant and positive impacts. When these are coupled with an open attitude and a positive culture, mental health wellbeing can be effectively tackled in the workplace. Will this lead to improvements in motivation and productivity in staff and improved financial performance for the organisation? We think it’s more than possible.