Hints & Tips Blog

Supporting Your Employees’ Mental Health

The issue of mental health used to hover on the murky side of illness, but we’re now more aware of the need for support. People today are less reluctant to acknowledge and talk openly about their mental health issues, and employers are accepting that they must factor mental health into their employee health and safety conditions.

Statistics show that 25% of the UK population will experience mental health problems in their lifetime, and one person in six is likely to experience them at any given time. Mental ill-health represents an annual £33 billion to £74 billion cost to the economy, with businesses estimated to lose some £1,300 for every employee with unacknowledged mental health needs.

So many people are potentially affected that employers can’t afford to ignore the rise in reports of people experiencing pressure, anxiety and stress at work.

Research demonstrates that anxiety, depression and stress caused some 72 million days of absence a year due to sickness absence in 2018/9, with 602,000 reported cases. One in five people take a day off because of stress at work, but 90% of them offered some other reason for their absence.

What is perhaps most disturbing is that a large proportion of the costs arise from a situation called “presenteeism”, which defines those employees who are less productive at work due to poor mental health, but who are unable or scared to take time off. This is explained by the stigma historically attached to mental health problems, that resulted in twice as many employees losing their jobs for this reason than any other.

These figures are now improving, and acknowledging the issue is the first step to improving the mental health climate in your workplace. It’s imperative for business owners to take the lead in directing your company culture, with some core initiatives that will help:

  1. Promote an open culture:
    You should demonstrate your awareness of mental health issues and their impact on both the business and individuals. Training should be given at all levels to increase this awareness, to understand and give the best response, so that people feel able to talk about it if they have problems.People at all levels should feel comfortable in sharing any experience of past anxiety or stress issues. Discussing the cause, symptoms and resolution of such issues can provide useful suggestions for helping other sufferers. It’s also valuable in helping others feel less isolated and more able to approach a colleague or supervisor if they need support.
  1. Monitor situations that often increase stress:
    These can include:
  • lack of control over projects
  • greater workloads
  • employee uncertainty about your expectations
  • anxiety during periods of change

If you see any of these situations in your workplace, don’t let them build up to become a serious problem. Assess their impact on the individuals concerned and what you can do to alleviate their struggle.

More tips on improving workplace mental health will follow next time.

If you’d like help in understanding mental health issues and aiding your employees, please contact Rachel Hannan at Rachel.hannan@bhp.co.uk

Source: Thriving at Work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers