According to a new report published this month, mental health problems are costing the UK economy over £117 billion annually.
The report from the Mental Health Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) found that the cost of mental health problems is equivalent to around 5 per cent of the UK’s GDP. The report also makes the case for a prevention-based approach to mental health which would both improve mental wellbeing while reducing the economic costs of poor mental health.
These results coincide with data released from the Health and Safety Executive that shows more than 800,000 people experienced work-related stress, anxiety or depression in 2020-21. Clearly, employers cannot afford to ignore the effects of poor mental health on their employees: either from a wellbeing or a monetary standpoint.
However, despite great strides by many organisations to prioritise the mental wellbeing of their employees, it seems many people still consider mental health at work a taboo subject.
A significant gap in how we think and act about mental health
A poll conducted by BHSF of more than 2,000 UK employees who had been working from home during the pandemic found that just 41% of them would raise mental health concerns with their manager. These results tell us that mental health is still a difficult subject for many people to talk about and organisations need to do more to break down both the attached stigmas and communication barriers.
This sentiment has been echoed by Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety at the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). She has said “Creating a workplace that’s mental health-friendly has to start from the top. There must be a clear direction shown by those running a business if there’s going to be sustained positive change”.
In addition, she believes that there’s a lack of understanding, training and resources needed to provide proper support. However, organisations that invest in getting the “right mental support in place for their people are reaping the rewards” through higher levels of engagement and morale and lower absence rates.
HR can play a key role in normalising discussions about mental health and creating mentally healthy work environments. Changing an entire company’s perception on mental health of course isn’t easy, but with a proper strategy in place, it’s a more than achievable goal.
We’ve picked out some essential mental health resources to get you started.
CIPD: People Manager’s Guide to Mental Health
This comprehensive guide from the CIPD and MIND aims to help HR and managers break the culture of silence surrounding mental health in the workplace and to give specific guidance on disclosure. It covers the whole employee lifecycle, from the recruitment process and managing disability and ill health at work, to supporting those returning from a long period of absence.
Containing plenty of useful information, practical advice and templates, this is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to facilitate conversations about workplace mental health and stress.
You can view or download the guide here.
Mental Health First Aid England
People are generally more comfortable sharing their physical problems than mental ones with their employers. This means it’s vital that organisations are seen to be taking mental health seriously if they want to have a more open dialogue with their employees. Bringing in mental health first aid training, alongside physical first aid, is a great way of showing employees that both are treated as being equally important.
MHFA is one of several organisations that provide training and consultancy for HR, managers and employees aimed at helping minimise the impact of mental health on working life. They offer a range of options: from basic training to a full qualification. Both of which can help workers spot signs of mental health issues, support their colleagues and reduce the overall stigma of reaching out for help.
Thriving at Work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers
This government-commissioned review of the UK workforce’s mental wellbeing gives an extensive analysis of the extent to which mental health affects the economy. It also offers in-depth advice for employers, the government and other stakeholders to make positive changes. This is a comprehensive guide, so we recommend starting with Chapter 5: Our Recommendations for Employers and Chapter 6: The Importance of Transparency and Leadership.
To view or download the guide, just follow this link.
MIND – Free resources to help you take care of business
UK mental health charity MIND have a range of resources for employers, such as guides on creating a mentally healthy workplace, managing stress and supporting individuals experiencing mental health issues. More recently, they’ve also published a series of guides for employers to support staff who work remotely or in hybrid-working environments.
Helpfully, MIND’s resources include a list of commonly asked questions from HR and line managers about policies for improving and supporting the mental wellbeing of staff. These are both thorough and invaluable resources for HR professionals in any industry.
Don’t forget to utilise your HR software
You can make it easy for your employees to find reputable information and guidance on mental wellbeing by using your HR software and associated HR portals. Alongside pointing employees to internal resources, such as your mental health first aiders or EAP, you could also include a directory of organisations that provide mental health advice. That way, if a member of staff isn’t ready to talk to someone inside the organisation, they know where to go to get help.
Lastly, HR software can be used to track absences and manage regular check-ins, meaning HR and line mangers can spot if employees may be struggling. As mentioned earlier on, employees may find it difficult to approach their managers, colleagues or HR about something that may be troubling them. So, having the ability to track absences or refer to information gathered at check-ins can be vital in identifying early warning signs.