The mental health charity Mind has recently published the alarming finding that poor mental health affects half of all employees. Fear of failure, mounting pressure and job insecurity have been found as some of the biggest contributors to stress in the workplace. This is something that some may argue will continue to rise in the age where the gig economy, based on flexible and non-guaranteed working arrangements, is booming.
Mind has, alongside other organisations, created an online resource for employers and employees with information, advice, resources and training that workplaces can use to improve wellbeing. This initiative was launched with the support of the Duke of Cambridge.
A large number of business leaders and unions have recently called for mental health first aid provision to be compulsory in workplaces, with mental health first aiders being available to employees alongside staff trained to respond to basic injuries. Enterprises such as WH Smith, Royal Mail and Channel 4 were some of the signatories to an open letter submitted to Theresa May on this issue, signalling a further push for the need to recognise and reduce mental health issues in the workplace.
The letter calls for the Government to change health and safety rules in order to equip first aiders with the ability to spot early signs of mental health problems. It states that it is the employers’ duty of care to equalise mental health with physical health.
Many organisations have already implemented mental health first aid initiatives. Thames Water now has 350 employees who wear green lanyards in order to identify themselves as mental health first aiders. The company states that they have seen a 75% reduction in work related mental health issues since introducing this scheme.
Research conducted into mental wellbeing has found that employees who feel happy are more productive, more creative, more engaged, better at sales and problem solving. On top of that, they work better in teams and are happy to help others, in turn creating a positive working atmosphere and often leading to higher job satisfaction.
Taking steps to create a positive working atmosphere and spot the first signs of mental health decline, can also help business from a commercial point of view. If the correct approach and initiatives are taken, the amount of sick days taken for mental health related problems may reduce. It is estimated that mental health in the workplace costs the UK economy £35billion a year with 15.4million working days lost due to stress, depression or anxiety.
It is also estimated that around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem. With the potential of employees claiming disability discrimination in connection with mental health conditions, it is vital for business to seek legal advice on any issues which may arise to reduce the risk of claims.
If you are interested in learning more about the interaction of mental health and the workplace, we are providing a training session ‘Managing Mental Ill-health in the Workplace’ on 20 March 2019 at our offices. Alternatively, we can provide training sessions at your organisation at your convenience. Please contact Claire Merritt, Partner for more details.
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