Mental Health in the Workplace: Why It Matters
This blog post focuses on mental health in the workplace and on ways in which employers can take practical steps towards creating a thriving working culture. The core standards mentioned in this post are based on the ‘Thriving at Work’ Report by Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer (2017). The post also includes information about the ‘Thriving Minds’ conference in Leeds, October 10th, 2018.
What is mental health?
World Health Organization
Mental health is ‘a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’
Simply put, mental health refers to our ability to live well-balanced and productive lives and to develop resilience towards challenges and stressful situations.
In the UK, at least 1 out of 4 people deal with some form of mental health condition – a number that has significantly increased over the last decade. Unfortunately, because of the stigma linked to mental health issues, people often refuse to seek professional help and support. Moreover, 9 out of 10 people with mental ill-health have experienced discrimination due to their health conditions at some point in their lives.
A better way to address this stigma is to recognise that we all have mental health. The spectrum ranges from a positive, flourishing state on one end, to exhibiting severe symptoms or conditions that prevent someone from realising their full potential.
Our mental health can naturally fluctuate, depending on life situations, and on how we manage our mental health. Therefore, mental well-being is not simply reflected in the absence of a mental health problem. Rather, mental well-being is closely connected to how each of us takes care of our own mental health.
The impact of poor mental health in the workplace
Nigel Carrington, University of the Arts London
Everyone is somewhere on the mental health spectrum, so this is a business productivity issue which should be dealt with alongside other health and safety considerations. Creating a positive environment for mental health demonstrably costs less than failing to do so (source).
Poor mental health has been shown to have a staggering effect on the country’s economy, with a reported loss of £74- £99 billion each year. In the workplace, an estimated 15% of the country’s workforce have displayed symptoms of mental health problems. Out of the 1.5 million employees diagnosed with long-term mental health problems, 300,000 people lose their jobs each year. This creates an added cost for employers of £54 billion.
The impact of poor mental health in the workplace is twofold. First, people with a mental health condition are three times more likely to have a long-term period of sickness. Second, since 2009, absence due to mental health reasons in this period has risen by around 5%. We visualised this data in the summary below:
How can you address mental health in the workplace?
Employers can take actionable measures that can address mental health in the workplace by implementing the ‘core standards’ recommended in the ‘Thriving at Work’ report. These standards apply to organisations, regardless of scale and industry, and can be adapted in order to effect positive change:
Create a mental health at work plan that will keep employees informed about the importance of maintaining good mental health and communicate that support is available, should employees feel the need for it.
Develop mental health awareness among employees by populating useful tools and information.
Keep the conversation open about mental health, address any stigma towards it and foster an environment where employees are empowered to excel and are supported when the need arises
Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure that they maintain work-life balance
Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors with the correct skill set and training needed to support and empower employees to thrive in the workplace, and
Monitor employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding data, talking to employees, and understanding potential risk factors.
The ‘Thriving at Work’ report was launched in October 2017. Marking one year since its launch, we have partnered with Thrive Law, Leeds-based law firm that specialises in employment law and mental health, to refresh people’s mind about the core standards and kickstart a dialogue with organisations interested in making a positive change.
The ‘Thriving Minds’ conference takes place this Wednesday, October 10th at the Roundhay Mansion in Leeds. It’s going to be a focused, action-packed day for learning new skills that will enable you and your team to thrive and build a strong foundation for future success. Join us on the day and book your ticket now!
As a sponsor of the event, we have created a bespoke workbook created to assist the participants in achieving the core standards as recommended in the ‘Thriving at Work’ report. The workbook can be used throughout the day to assist in implementing learning within organisations.
The workbook will be available for download after the event on our website.
We look forward to meeting everyone on Wednesday!
World Health Organization (2014), Mental health: A state of well-being. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/
Farmer, P., & Stevenson, D. (2017), Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf
Mental Health Foundation (2016), Managing mental health in the workplace. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/CR00233_Ebook_dualbranded_interactive.pdf