Why is Prioritising Mental Health in the Workplace Essential for Supporting Employee Well-being?
Mental health issues affect millions of people worldwide and can have a significant impact on their lives. Unfortunately, they often go undetected and untreated, leading to negative outcomes for the individual and society as a whole. The workplace is a crucial environment for promoting mental health, and employers have a critical role to play in supporting their employees' mental well-being.
To contribute to Mental Health Awareness Week, this article will discuss some of the ways employers can support the mental health of their employees.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, in the UK, mental health problems are the leading cause of sickness absence, accounting for 17.9 million lost working days in 2019/2020.
A survey by mental health charity Mind found that 60% of employees have experienced a mental health problem due to work, and only half of those felt comfortable talking to their employer about it.
According to a 2020 report by Deloitte, poor mental health costs UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion per year, with presenteeism (being at work but unable to perform to full capacity due to poor mental health) accounting for over half of this cost.
A 2020 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that while many employers recognise the importance of mental health, few have a comprehensive approach to supporting employees' mental well-being. Only 31% of UK employers have a standalone mental health policy, and 20% provide mental health training for line managers.
The UK government's Thriving at Work report found that for every £1 invested in mental health support in the workplace, employers could expect to see a return of £4.20 in improved productivity, reduced sickness absence, and other benefits.
How can employers and line managers promote a healthy workplace to support their employee's mental health?
1. Create a Safe and Supportive Environment
A safe and supportive work environment is essential for promoting mental wellbeing. Employers can achieve this by fostering an open and inclusive workplace culture that values diversity, equity, and respect. They should encourage open communication and create avenues for employees to report any concerns or issues that affect their mental health. Employers should also provide access to mental health resources, such as counseling services, support groups, and wellness programs.
2. Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-related stress is a significant contributor to mental health issues. Employers can promote work-life balance by implementing flexible work arrangements, such as hybrid working, job-sharing, and flexible schedules. They can also encourage employees to take breaks, practice mindfulness, engage in physical activities during work hours, and completely switch off from work when they are in their free time which might include having a policy that employees should not check and respond to emails outside of their working hours.
3. Provide Training and Education
Employers can provide training and education to employees on mental health topics such as stress management, resilience, and the signs of mental health issues. This can help employees develop coping strategies, reduce stigma around mental health issues, and learn how to support colleagues who may be struggling with their mental health.
4. Support Employees with Mental Health Issues
Employers should be prepared to support employees who may be experiencing mental health issues. This includes providing them with reasonable accommodations, such as time off or a modified work schedule, and ensuring they have access to mental health services. Employers should also be mindful of the potential for discrimination against employees with mental health issues and take steps to prevent it. If an employee is diagnosed with a mental health condition that is (or could be) classed as a disability, employers have a legal duty to consider reasonable adjustments.
What happens if you don’t support employees with their mental health?
If mental health is ignored or stigmatised in the workplace, it can have serious negative consequences for both employees and employers. Employees who are struggling with mental health issues may find it difficult to concentrate, complete tasks, or even show up to work. This can result in reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, which can have financial and operational impacts on the employer.
If employees do not feel supported in the workplace, they may choose to leave for a more supportive environment. High turnover can be costly for employers in terms of recruitment and training.
If employees are not getting the mental health support they need, their conditions may worsen over time, leading to more severe ill health and long-term therapy which might also lead to lengthy absences from work.
Employers who do not provide adequate support for mental health may be at risk of legal action for discrimination, failure to consider reasonable adjustments or failure to provide a safe working environment. They may also face reputational damage if their lack of support becomes public knowledge.
Employees who feel unsupported or stigmatised may experience increased stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, which can have a significant impact on their overall well-being and quality of life for themselves and their families.
In short, ignoring or stigmatising mental health in the workplace can have wide-ranging negative consequences for both employees and employers. It is in everyone's best interest to prioritise mental health support and create a safe and supportive workplace culture.
Mental health conditions are prevalent in the workplace, and ignoring or stigmatising them can have serious negative consequences for both employees and employers.
Providing mental health support in the workplace can have significant positive impacts, including higher job satisfaction, engagement, and productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs.
Employers should prioritise creating a safe and supportive workplace culture that encourages employees to seek mental health support when needed and provides resources such as counseling services and mental health education.
It is important for employers to address mental health stigma and promote an open and accepting attitude towards mental health issues in the workplace.
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