Prioritising Workplace Mental Health

Last week employers were left to ponder some news that has recently come out of government that parliament are somewhat closer to repealing a law which discriminates against company directors who may be suffering from mental health issues.

Figures were also released on who is more susceptible to developing a mental health issue.  The results showed that middle aged men were at the highest risk of committing suicide and, with the main reasons being money and job security that would turn people to such acts.

As most people know the demands on a person in the modern working lifestyle in the UK are becoming more and more demanding; the UK is the third hardest working country in Europe (in hours).  This has led to extremely demanding working environment with target driven businesses becoming the norm in the modern age and this has had an impact as around one in six workers in the UK will suffer from stress, depression or anxiety at one point in their career or another.

The issue is that workers feel they cannot speak out when suffering from such issues as many feel that it could lead to a stigmatisation.  The mental health charity Mind  found that one in five workers thought if they admitted to having mental health problems they would be put forward for redundancy quicker than someone who is off sound mind.

Many companies are now addressing this issue with the introduction of work wellbeing schemes and urging staff to come forward and allow people to help them work through the issues they may be facing.  Companies are required to cast an eye over their workforce and try to establish (as early on as possible) which staff may be struggling as this may save company thousands of pounds down the line in sick days and elongated treatments.  It simply doesn’t make sense for a company not to pay such attention.

Lower productivity and less committed staff in the UK cost the economy £26 billion in lost revenue and in sharp contrast companies who actually invest in wellbeing programmes stand to save £300.  FTSE 100 companies who took part in employee wellbeing schemes outperformed companies who did not by approximately 10 per cent.

Improving staff wellbeing doesn’t always have to involve financial investment.  By investing time in by speaking to staff on a one to one basis or even something as simple as making sure employees take appropriate breaks will help in ensuring they don’t burn out.

What is extremely important for companies across the UK is the need to break the taboos of discussing mental health in the workplace and ensure that employees are made to feel comfortable when addressing their superiors.

Jenny Jones writes for many sites on corporate health insurance and has contributed to many blogs such Followhealth and bmi4sme.