TT283: Mental Health in the Workplace – Is your business prepared?

December 10, 2018
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Mental Health in the workplace is increasingly becoming an area that employers need to address. First and foremost, commonly our employees are also our friends and it is important to look after their welfare, however there is also a cost impact on businesses. Based on the latest statistics provided by The Centre for Mental Health, it is estimated that the cost to UK employers alone is £34.9 billion each year, as a result of reduced productivity, sickness absence, and increased staff turnover, as a result of poor mental health.

Unfortunately for some individuals/organisations, mental health is still considered a taboo subject. It can take many forms (depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) etc) and can be triggered by a number of factors (such as increased stress, bereavements, personal relationship breakdowns etc). As employees can spend most of their lives working, it is important that employers are in a position to support the welfare of their employees.

There are currently a number of campaigns to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace and encourage organisations to consider their culture, policies and practices. The campaigns are supported by the Royal Family, and more recently, Theresa May was urged by a number of business leaders and unions to change the law to enforce mental health first aid in the workplace. This suggests that it will not take long for the government to take action and make it law.

What are the risks of not addressing Mental Health in the workplace?

  1. Reduced productivity/reduction of output – clearly, employers want the best from their employees to help drive the profits up in their business. In the workplace alone, increased workload, stress, tiredness are all symptomatic and could lead to a more serious longer term mental illness, and not only contribute to reduced productivity but could eventually lead to absenteeism as a result.
  2. Increased sickness absence – as mentioned above, poor mental health can lead to increased absence from work. From recent surveys, it was found that approximately 14.7% of sick days are attributable to mental health – and that is only based on those disclosed and recorded, with it being very common for individuals to provide an alternative excuse so they are not judged by their employers.
  3. Increase in staff turnover/recruitment issues – staff turnover is a high cost to employers. Recruitment fees are expensive, so to have to be paying these out on a regular basis could potentially be very costly. In addition, having a mental health policy in place or at least having a culture to look after staff welfare is something that individuals look for when applying for jobs, and without it, it could prevent your business from recruiting talented staff.

So what can employers do?

  1. Increase awareness of Mental Health in the workplace – even at the basic level, such as the sharing of information on mental health on office notice boards can increase awareness and help reduce the stigma. Resources (such as posters and images) can be obtained from the Mental Health England website.
  2. Mental Health First Aid courses – arranging these courses for some of your employees not only increases the awareness in the workplace and provide an initial response in an emergency, but it also equips those trained to have the skills to be aware of the symptoms that could potentially lead to a more serious mental health issue, giving the ability to intervene and support at an earlier stage.
  3. Consider and revisit existing employment policies – many companies will have policies on Physical Health and comments on standard sickness days but no specific policies on Mental Health.
  4. Offer an Employer Assist Program (EAP) – organisations are increasingly using these outsourced services to help provide their employees support when it is needed. The benefit of using an EAP is that the employees can be attended to much more quickly compared with making arrangements via the NHS or other support services. It may even be the case that if you provide Private Health cover to your employees, that this may already be part of the service.

As with many employers, Barnes Roffe consider the welfare of its staff to be of the utmost importance and have proactively been reviewing existing policies and practices, as well as having a number of staff trained as mental health first aiders. If you would like too know more about this important area, please do not hesitate to contact your relationship partner.

Talk to Barnes Roffe today
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