When you have to do something for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – and often more than that – ideally, it should be something you enjoy; something which you find stimulating; energising; satisfying. Something that makes you thrive. Sadly, for many employees, rather than helping them thrive, their work lives can contribute to high levels of stress, pressure and anxiety. This impacts not only on individuals but on companies too.
15.8million work days lost in 2016; more than £76billion cost to UK economy; a drain on employers of more than £33billion. These are some of the business consequences of employees’ poor mental health. The human cost is just as distressing; 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition; 300,000 people with long-term mental health issues lose their job each year. This can have a devastating effect not only on the individual concerned but on their family, loved ones and the wider community. These are just some of the worrying findings revealed in a new independent report ‘Thriving at Work’, commissioned by the Government, which was released on 26th October.
Positive Points and Recommendations
There are some positives, however. There’s a much greater awareness amongst employers about the need to look-after their employees’ mental health as well as their physical health; and there are examples of good practice by some forward-thinking companies. Based on this, the report is calling for government to support the implementation of 6 mental health core standards for businesses:
Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
Develop mental health awareness among employees
Encourage open conversations about mental health
Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure a healthy work life balance
Promote effective people management
Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
Erasing the Stigma; Lifting the Taboo
So what now? Well, just releasing this report is a real step forward. It means the issue is well and truly out in the open. Now it’s down to employers – and HR professionals like ourselves – to take it further and put these recommendations into practice.
Part of the problem with mental health is the stigma that is still attached to it. Those who are struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues are reluctant to speak out in case it damages their job or career prospects, fearing that others will view them differently.
Hopefully, this report will go some way towards lifting the taboo. People with depression can’t just ‘pull themselves together and get on with it’. They need support, understanding and practical help to get them through. This is where HR can really assist.
How We Can Help
We can help companies create a workplace culture in which employees can have the confidence to admit they’re struggling, knowing they will be met with empathy not irritation; and we can help put practical strategies in place to support the employee and ensure that their illness does not impact negatively on their colleagues such as increased workloads.
If you’d like some help implementing the report’s recommendations, please contact us. Together we can make our workplaces happier and healthier so that everyone can achieve their potential and really thrive at work.