Rewards & BenefitsHealth and WellbeingMental health in the workplace: Removing the stigma

Mental health in the workplace: Removing the stigma

Mental health is the most common reason for people to take time off work, costing the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year. 

Despite being such a huge issue for businesses, our recent research found that 33% of employers currently do not currently have anything in place to support the wellbeing of their staff. This is surprising, given that 93% consider workplace wellbeing to be an important business need and over half (51%) state that they would be likely to invest in workplace wellbeing.

A Deloitte report recently found that the UK is leading the way when it comes to supporting staff in the workplace, but we still have a long way to go. While many businesses have initiatives in place, they are often very limited. In fact, our research revealed that over half (57%) of employers do not meet the basic standards when it comes to supporting their staff with mental health problems.

However, the employer is not always at fault and we know that for many businesses, the wellbeing of their employees is a top priority, despite not having support in place. Often it is down to the lack of resources and training required for employers to implement initiatives to support their employees.

For businesses, supporting their staff with physical or mental health issues or other sensitive topics can seem like a daunting task. However, an individual’s personal life can have a massive impact on their professional life and productivity. In fact, in some cases it is the workplace that is the cause of mental health issues, particularly when it comes to stress. For this reason, it’s important for businesses to understand that looking after their people can bring business benefits such as reduced sickness rates, reduced staff turnover and improved productivity.

In order to support businesses, Health@Work – which has been providing expertise on health, safety and wellbeing for over 25 years – has developed the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, to help seamlessly embed workplace wellbeing into every aspect of an organisation, making them stronger, more productive and more profitable.

The accreditation has been created for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of their employees, through an interactive self-assessment tool, site visits, action plans and evidence gathering.

By acting as a critical friend for businesses and shaping how people think about workplace wellbeing, encouraging open conversations about all important aspects of health including stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, we can enable businesses to proactively address issues within their organisation to ensure a healthy culture and positive working environment.

Businesses don’t have to start big – small things like mindfulness sessions and exercise can really help employees better cope with the stresses life and work can bring. But managers are the ones that can potentially make the most difference. They are at the heart of a business, closest to those that are potentially suffering from a mental health condition.

While they can help communicate that being open will not lead to discrimination, they should also be well trained in spotting the first signs and providing the basic support, certainly as a first step on the road to getting proper qualified support from a GP.

We know that business growth relies on sustainable cultures and practices that focus on how well its people perform. Mental health and wellbeing is a huge issue for businesses and our research highlights the need for employers to seek guidance for the care of their employees.

Employee wellbeing initiatives are no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but essential to a business. Having these initiatives in place can differentiate a business from its competition, improving employee retention as well as attracting the best talent.

To find out more about the Workplace Wellbeing Charter or to start your business’ accreditation process, visit: www.wellbeingcharter.org.uk

Author: Matt Liggins, director of wellbeing at Health@Work

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