Mental health in the workplace is important as according to the leading health charity, Mind; one in six people in the workplace experience mental health problems. This costs UK employers between £33-42 billion a year in unproductive and absent staff.
In addition to the financial cost of mental health problems, having an awareness of the importance of mental health can help workforces thrive. For a long time mental health problems have not been acknowledged and understood. They have been burdened with stigma and a sense of shame. This is now changing. Increasingly businesses are becoming aware of the power of mental health promotion. Consistently, studies are showing strong evidence that organisations that take mental health seriously and promote mental health awareness are more successful than organisations that do not.
Mental Health Awareness at Work
The definition of mental health involves how we think, feel and behave. It impacts on daily life, relationships and can sometimes affect physical health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
Undoubtedly mental health awareness is particularly important in the workplace. It is where many people spend much of their time and it can be a stressful and fast paced environment. Many people feel uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing mental health and often become increasingly unable to cope due to a lack of understanding, support and help. Millions of working days are lost every year to mental health related issues.
By being open and aware of the importance of mental health, organisations can make a big difference. When a message comes from the top that mental health issues are real and important it is much easier for employees to deal with their problems.
In 2017 a study was conducted across Germany, Canada, Australia, France, Belgium and Sweden. Known as the Deloitte study it looked at the impact of mental health awareness initiatives in the workplace. It provided clear evidence that these initiative are having a positive impact.
Signs to Look Out For
As a manager you can look out for certain signs in your staff. Mental health problems may be present if a person experiences one or more of the following behaviours:
Making more mistakes and having difficulty in making decisions and concentrating.
Being unusually sensitive or irritable
Changes in their work habits such as absences or changes in work patterns ie starting late, staying too long, missing lunch.
They seem consistently tired and under the weather
Their personal appearance has changed and they don’t seem to show as much care.
They show sign of substance misuse such as smelling of alcohol.
Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing
As we’ve seen, mental health problems are very common in the workplace. They can range from disorders such as anxiety to more serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Promoting good mental health can impact on physical health and improve many other aspects of people’s lives. This can help people:
Achieve their potential
Manage and cope with stress
Engage with their local community
Organisations can promote mental health by providing:
Access to appropriate training
Promote mental health prevention in day to day work
Raise awareness of mental health and it’s importance
Encourage and accommodate healthy lifestyles with good food available, time away from desks or work stations and opportunity for physical activity.