Mental Health in the Work Place

Time to act?

Mental and physical health is intrinsically linked and should be treated as such.  However, it is common for people to not treat mental health issues as seriously as they do physical health concerns.  There is often a feeling that mental health problems are something to be ashamed of, and therefore people are not confident to speak up and ask for help.  It is important for the employer to be aware of the effects that work can have on the mental health of their employees, and equally how the mental health of their employees can have an effect on their productivity. 

There are many reasons for an employer to be sensitive to the need for mental health and wellness in the workplace, financially speaking the figures are staggering, with business’ seeing a massive £8 Billion saving when companies provide better mental health support in the workplace (and that is in the UK alone).    Let’s explore how mental health and wellness can impact the workforce in more detail, and how to overcome the issues that may present themselves.

 

Presenteeism & Absenteeism

To put it in perspective, productivity is adversely affected by both presenteeism (an employee being present when ill) and also absenteeism, with almost 13% of sick days being due to mental health issues. It is estimated that for a small investment of around £80 per employee, a company can save up to £700, which is a: £347,722 saving for a team of 500 employees.

 

Work Environment

Employees spend a lot of their life hours in the workplace (an estimated 35%); therefore the working environment must be conducive to a healthy balanced lifestyle.   This means space should be clean, tidy, well lit, well ventilated and quiet enough for the employees to focus on their work effectively.   In addition, there should be break-out areas where the employees can relax effectively when not working.

 

Support

Proactive and interventional support in the workplace has immense, far-reaching benefits for both the employee and employer. There are many cases whereby the mental health of employees can be overlooked, especially if the employer cannot see the signs of distress.  This is a terrible oversight for many reasons, not least for the productivity of the workforce.  Therefore wellness initiatives are a great investment for the retention and wellbeing of the workforce.

 

Stress in the workforce

Stress in the workplace can either come directly from the workplace or from outside situations. It is estimated that 550 million work hours are lost each year due to the stress of the job.  Outside situations may also be causing stress, and impacting performance, this could be personal issues affecting employees that are influencing how well they are doing.  Because of the overwhelming impact of stress on the employees, it is advisable for an employer to have a robust mental and physical wellness initiative in place.

 

Anxiety and Depression

Too much stress can lead to anxiety and depression.  Again the links between physical and mental wellness are hard to ignore.   Therefore, a company must create a culture that supports the overall health of their employees for the company to thrive.

 

A Positive Culture

A positive work culture creates an effective workforce.  It is important to foster a culture of openness so that employees know where to turn to, if and when they experience some sort of trauma in their life.  Whether that trauma has arisen in the workplace, or externally, in both instances the employee will not be able to deliver their best work if they are feeling compromised mentally. 

In addition, it is scientifically proven that working an excess of 40 hours per week, not taking long enough breaks as well as sitting at a desk for long periods of time can adversely affect both your mental and physical health.  There are many steps that a company can take to develop a culture that enhances the overall wellness of their employees, including workshops, incentives and education.

 

Mental and Physical Health Education

Health and wellness education should be provided to encourage everyone in the workplace to feel nourished and supported so that they can deliver their best work; work that they can be proud of.  A lack of training in this area can be a serious and extensive problem that will lead to a lot of time off and high staff turnover if not addressed correctly from the onset.

Now, more than ever, it is essential for an employer to provide the necessary tools for their employees so that they can lead a healthy lifestyle.  It has been proven that if your work culture is too serious and doesn’t promote health and wellness then it becomes problematic and the employees will not be satisfied in the long term.  An increasing number of businesses are now embracing employee wellness programs, to educate and create a healthy work environment for their employees.  We can help business owners and HR Personnel analyse the cost implications and provide insights that will allow employers to rethink various aspects of employee health and wellness, to ensure a much healthier, happier workforce.