Mental health at work
At any one time, one in four of us will be experiencing a mental health condition, most often depression or anxiety. Mental ill health affects people in every workplace, big or small. It is a reality of life that we too often sweep under the carpet. Yet by responding positively and being more open, businesses get a more productive, loyal workforce and save a lot of money.
Our research has found that the costs of mental health conditions to UK workplaces are estimated to be at least £26 billion across the economy. That is equivalent to £1,000 for every employee in every business each year. More than half of the cost is due to ‘presenteeism’, where people are at work but are underperforming due to ill health, while just under a third is due to sickness absence.
Supporting your team
Awareness of mental health conditions in workplaces in Britain is remarkably low. Most employers under-estimate how common they are. Some do not believe they even employ someone with a mental health problem or they fear that they would be hard to manage or unreliable. And those that are dealing with issues may feel they should just take time off, which can lead to them losing touch with work because colleagues don’t know what to say to them and managers fear making things worse.
Yet the evidence suggests that, on the whole, good work is good for both mental and physical health. And simple adjustments in workplaces, combined with sensitive management, can help people stay in work or get back if they need time off sick.
Employers can begin by acknowledging that depression and anxiety are common conditions and encouraging staff to seek help if they become unwell. Leadership from the top creates a more open culture, following which the role of line managers and supervisors is crucial. They need the knowledge, skill and confidence to respond to people with mental health conditions sensitively and positively. Simple, cost-effective training programmes are now available to help managers to do this, whatever business they work in.
Grow your team
We know that many thousands of people with a range of mental health problems can work successfully. Local health services across the country are actively seeking employment opportunities for people, offering ongoing support for the employee and their employer. And through the Access to Work scheme, employers can get government funding for adjustments to workplaces for disabled people to get jobs. This can fund not just physical adjustments for people with physical disabilities but extra help for people with mental health problems, for example with transport or mentoring support.
By taking these opportunities, recruiters can take on people who just need a chance to prove their worth, knowing they will be supported through any difficult times and gaining people with skills and knowledge they might otherwise have missed.
Supporting mental health at work is no longer an optional extra for good business. More employers are now recognising that everyone benefits from acknowledging mental ill health as a fact of life, promoting good mental health in a workplace and helping those who become unwell to recover.
More information about managing mental health at work is available on our website.