Mental health in the workplace is a very topical area in today’s workplaces but, organisational attitudes towards mental ill health still raise questions.  Despite  the strong evidence demonstrating the case for organisations to adopt a positive attitude towards those experiencing or recovering from mental health issues attitudes are still mixed.

Questions arise such as: why should employers take notice of the mental health and the well-being of their workforce?  And, what should be considered reasonable actions in dealing with such a sensitive topic in the work arena?

MIND, the charity organisation report their research establishes that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers. To UK employers around £33 – £42 billion a year.

  • More than one in five (21per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
  • 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’.
  • 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), confirm that a lot of stigma remains about mental health in society and the workplace. They recommend that employers who make an effort to increase awareness of mental health issues within their workforce can assist in breaking the silence and commence a more open and inclusive culture.

So what does supportive action mean in practice?

Firstly, managers must have the confidence and competencies to establish conversations with employees about sensitive matters like mental health and have the knowledge about where specialist support can be obtained. HR has a role to communicate or facilitate access to the support and ensure confidentiality.

MIND discuss creating a Stress Awareness Space. This provides staff with the opportunity to share thoughts and feelings when they are feeling stressed. The ‘Stress Awareness Space’ creates an area to share good advice and tips or identify supportive work colleagues.   Additionally, more structured training is available from external providers.

In summary, employers making an investment in employee well-being is not just ‘the right thing to do’, but, a commercially sound decision that will make a positive impact on morale and productivity in the workplace. In reality, good management practice in this area means a boost to business growth.

Martin Whyte FCIPD. 12 July 2018.

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