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Why is Mental Health important and how can an employer help?

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Louise Berry #mentalhealthweek, #mentalhealthawareness, #mentalhealhawarenessweek...

Culturally we are becoming much more open when it comes to mental ill health, sufferers feel increasingly able to share their diagnoses and issues and this has perhaps contributed the increasing incidence of mental ill health at work. In fact, the HSE statistics for 2017/18 on the subject make compelling reading for employers and recruiters:

  • 15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety
  • Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for
    • 44% of all work-related ill health cases
    • 57% of all working days lost due to ill health
    • The main work factors were cited as workload pressures and lack of managerial support

Workload pressures such as tight deadlines, or tough targets are certainly apparent in the recruitment industry, along with a tendency towards a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture which makes a slide into alcohol and substance abuse a real danger. In fact, according to a specialist addiction treatment centre alcohol tops the list of addictions for UK recruiters followed by cocaine and methamphetamine.

Why is Mental Health important?

With 31% of the UK workforce having been formally diagnosed with a mental health issue, the cost for employers is £42bn a year in lost productivity, recruitment and absence. However, nearly three in five (57%) people say that if their employer proactively supported their mental wellbeing, it would help them to feel more loyal, be more productive and take less time off work. The poll carried out by Health Shield also found that 90% of employees said that struggling with mental health issues stopped them from thriving at work and performing to the best of their ability.

How can an employer help?

The key to helping employees who may be struggling is to create a working environment where people are encouraged to talk about what’s bothering them, whether it be financial or emotional worries, struggles with addiction or personal issues. Line managers have a key role in creating this environment and to help there are numerous courses available where they can learn about developing mentally healthy workplaces, including addressing stigma and discrimination.

Remote working – at least for some of the working week - could be another helpful tool for reducing workplace stress. Working from home can remove the pressure of a lengthy commute and provide individuals with the flexibility to manage other commitments such as medical appointments and childcare issues and squeeze in some exercise which has clear mental and physical health benefits. Since most households have good access to high-speed internet, much of our work can be done from any location providing the right equipment and software are accessible.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can offer support to managers and employees who are struggling with personal or work-related issues. This employee support would typically take the form of counselling, referrals or follow-up services.  This potential access to free therapy for behavioural and mental health conditions can help offset concerns about cost and contribute to a culture of prevention. Dealing with these problems quickly will not only benefit the employee but also the employer as staff are likely to be off work for less time, if at all.

And finally…

An open working environment, well-trained line managers and an EAP can go a long way to looking after the wellbeing of your staff, whilst ensuring the productivity and performance of your business remains high.

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