What’s the problem?
The economic cost of poor mental health in the workplace is between £33bn-£42bn each year· 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year.
Recently, businesses have started talking about, and addressing, mental health issues at work. Thanks to initiatives by Time to Change and mental health charity MIND.
We’ve seen yet more progress with high profile speakers such as Prince Harry and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Also, ‘World Mental Health Day’ has helped to educate people on the subject of mental health.
Yet despite the progress, there still seems a long way to go to tackle mental health issues in the workplace. Many still feel that it’s best to hide their mental health issues, put on a brave face, and suffer in silence.
Why do people prefer to suffer in silence?
- Is it that we fear negative repercussions?
- Is it shame due to the stigma that society has created?
- Are we concerned that people will see it as a sign of weakness?
- Do we worry that it will affect our reputation or our career prospects?
In some ways, we are right to think this way. Business in the Community’s Mental Health at Work Report 2018, says 11% of employees who disclosed a mental health issue, faced disciplinary procedures, demotion or dismissal. This result only serves to compound the situation. Anxiety and depression are widespread. Yet we rarely hear people talking about their struggles. According to mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people experience a mental health illness.
Chances are you working with someone who may be struggling. They may be doing so in silence. In 2018 only 16% of employees felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their manager. 61% experienced mental health issues due to work. 45% suffered in silence.
What needs to change?
We need to shift our attitude to mental health. It would be better to create an environment where people can discuss issues. This needs to be without fear of judgement or discrimination, but how can this happen?
‘Business in the Community’ recommend 3 calls to action:
It is the responsibility of the workplace to promote good mental health. They need to create an environment where employees are able to discuss mental health. This involves more than a set of rules or policies. It requires a complete culture change to the way we perceive, and deal with, mental health issues. It will help turn mental health from a taboo into something we are comfortable with.
We often receive training on policies, procedures and software. Very rarely do we receive training about how to deal with human issues such as mental health. Mental health is a complex issue. Ignorance and misunderstandings can make things worse. It can be difficult for those who have not suffered mental health issues to understand those that do. For this reason, employees should receive some kind of mental health awareness training. This would result in a more knowledgeable, understanding and empathetic workplace. Managers could consider investing in basic mental health literature. Making this available for all employees would be positive. It would also support line manager capability. Books and resources could be available on a library system. People can then have access without excessive cost.
3. Take Action
Whilst there is no quick fix for depression and anxiety, the workplace does have a key role to play. It needs to be an environment where people can discuss issues. Take check-ins, for example. The idea is that managers and employees get together to discuss progress.They also cover their performance and goals but could include happiness and wellbeing.
Implementing practical solutions such as check-ins encourage and nurture human relationships. Both manager and employer would meet as equal partners. Then discuss ways to make work more enjoyable and productive. Part of this involves raising issues that the employee may be experiencing. These would be both inside and outside of work.
Taking Mental Health Days
Every now and then, employees might need some time off to charge their batteries. It is important to separate sick (mental health day) leave from holiday leave so that they can do this. It can feel a pressure to ask for holiday leave for this. Especially, when what they need is to relax at home and focus on their own health. We are so used to physical ailments that we don’t encourage the same solution for mental troubles.Mental health days could be a method of increasing trust with your employee. It can also prevent long-term sick leave. A great example of this is a tweet from Madalyn Parker. Her colleagues responded well: viral story . She was upfront with them about taking sick leave for her mental well-being and described how she would be taking ‘today and tomorrow off to look after herself’.
Mental health disorders are still considered taboo but this mindset needs to change. It is of importance that the relevant people start acknowledging this topic. They need to treat it as more of a priority. It is confusion and uncertainty about the topic that creates this some times. It can be especially true for startups, who are the big corporations of tomorrow and for whome HR is a luxury. It shouldn’t be productivity that is important, wellbeing should also be of concern. In the long-term, your business will benefit
If you are an employer interested in wellbeing and mental health, you can download more information from:
Business in the Community Mental Health Toolkit for Employers.
Other valuable resources are:-