For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend much of our time, where we get our income and often where we make our friends. Having a fulfilling job can be good for your mental health and general wellbeing and it is vital that we protect that value by addressing mental health at work for those with existing issues, for those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole. Mental health in the workplace has rose to the forefront, as before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five people experienced mental health problems, but today, approximately 50% of people say their mental health has worsened due to COVID-19. Never has there been more urgency for organisations to champion mental health initiatives in their workplace.
What is mental health?
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Both change throughout our lives, and like our bodies, our minds can become unwell. The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’.
Discrimination against those with mental health issues remains a problem in workplaces, even though a significant proportion of the workforce will face poor mental health during their working life. In Great Britain, disability discrimination provisions in theEquality Act 2010 encompass many mental illnesses which can legally be classed as a disability. A range of conditions may qualify a person for protection under the Act providing there is a substantial and long-term effect (for at least a year) on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day tasks. Mental impairments do not need to be clinically well-recognised to qualify as a disability. If an employee has a disability, their organisation has a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs – this includes those with mental health conditions.
Smart employers know that organisations are only as strong as their people – they depend on having a healthy and productive workforce. Good mental health underpins this. By positively managing and supporting employees’ mental wellbeing, employers can ensure that staff perform to their potential – and this allows the business to achieve peak performance.
There is still a stigma surrounding mental health. By revealing issues, people fear to become isolated, viewed as abnormal, and considered unfit for the job. Employers have an essential role to play in supporting employees with education about mental health and creating an open dialogue. Providing resources that promote awareness can help create an accessible and positive workplace, one that fosters engagement and attracts talent.
Reduce Costs and Risk
Promoting mental health can also be a wise financial decision for businesses. Investing in a mentally healthy workplace can have a cost savings effect by reducing absenteeism (employees frequently absent due to illness) and presenteeism (at work, but ill and distracted), as well as disability claims and lost productivity. It also contributes to helping you meet workplace health and safety guidelines to reduce legal exposure.
Organisations should look at implementing initiatives around policy creation, communication, training resources, and early-intervention treatment. This can include creating policies and mandates around mental health at a corporate level; sharing resources through internal marketing channels to promote awareness; giving management and HR the training to identify issues and handle them successfully; and, providing employees with self-help tools and programs.
For further information on why mental health in the workplace matters, and how we can assist, please contact us here.