Human Capital

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by Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, MIND

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​​​​​​​Mental health in the workplace: What to do (and why you should do it)

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Employers are increasingly taking steps to promote staff wellbeing, writes Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at MIND. Here’s where to start.

 

Each year, the economy loses between £74billion and £99billion as a result of poor mental health. On top of that, 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs. These were the startling figures highlighted by the independent ‘Thriving at Work’ review commissioned by the Prime Minister in October last year. These statistics are a wake-up call about the importance of taking workplace wellbeing seriously. Fortunately, mental health at work is an issue that’s being taken seriously by a rapidly growing number of employers around the country.

 

Everyone has mental health, and every employer in the UK has a legal duty to provide reasonable adjustments for employees whose mental health problem meets the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This isn’t just a legal or moral issue, though – it’s also good for business. Having a happy, productive workforce, where people don’t feel they have to hide when they’re experiencing poor mental health or come into work when they are feeling unwell, is associated with positive business outcomes – such as increased productivity and decreased sickness absence. A growing movement of more than 900 employers have signed the Time to Change employer pledge . This is an excellent start, with FTSE 100 companies, leading retailers, government departments and local authorities all demonstrating their commitment to creating open and supportive workplaces.

 

“Our Workplace Wellbeing Index is a benchmark of best policy and practice. It will help you find out where you doing well and where you could improve your approach to mental health in the workplace.” – Workplace Wellbeing Index

 

There’s still a long way to go, though. MIND research has found that around half of us (48 per cent) have experienced a mental health problem in our current job, but only half of those people said they had talked to their employer about it. This suggests that as many as a quarter of UK workers are struggling in silence. We want employees at every level to be able to talk about these issues. Disclosing personal experiences still depends on the culture of the organisation, and we want all employees to feel they can come forward in the knowledge that they’ll be met with support and understanding, not stigma and discrimination.

 

Making changes to organisational cultures doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a journey towards creating a mentally healthy workplace. But even making small changes can make a difference. For example, letting employees know they can take time off work due to mental health problems, as they would with their physical health, can help to provide space to recover. And making sure that managers are confident and equipped to talk to staff members about their mental health needs can start a dialogue and increase a sense of wellbeing.

 

Many business leaders don’t know where to start when it comes to promoting good mental health at work. Offering your staff regular catch-ups with managers and the opportunity to regularly complete anonymous staff surveys can be a good way to start the process. Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) are simple, useful tools that can be found on the new Mental Health at Work gateway , a free website funded by the Royal Foundation and developed by MIND, with support from 11 other organisations. WAPs are drawn up by managers and staff, and help facilitate conversations about mental health. They can identify the unique triggers for poor mental health and what helps people stay well. It’s also important for leaders to role-model healthy working habits and behaviours, such as taking their proper breaks, leaving work on time and taking time off if they are unwell, physically or mentally.

 

“The Mental Health at Work gateway is a free one-stop shop for resources, training and other tools designed to help organisations, big and small, to start or continue their work promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.” – Mental Health at Work

 

Letting your staff know that they are valued can also be helped by investing in practical solutions such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), flexible working hours, buddy systems, subsidised gym membership and exercise classes, cycle to work schemes and season ticket loans, which can all make a big difference.

 

More and more business leaders are implementing workplace wellbeing initiatives and reaping the rewards. If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to join the growing number of employers taking steps towards promoting good mental health and wellbeing at work.

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