Each year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) produces a report on health and well-being in the UK. This year, having surveyed over 1,000 HR professionals, the CIPD study revealed some notable areas of concern.
Over the last 12 months, there has been a marked increase in the number of workplace absences linked to mental health issues with a rise from 41% in 2016, to 55% in 2018. Over a fifth of those employers surveyed reported mental ill-health as the primary cause of long-term sickness absence within their organisation.
The main causes of stress-related absence were said to be workload, management style and home life worries. Many employers noted that whilst technological advances improve our ability to connect immediately with whoever we want, whenever we want, these same advance are blurring the boundary between people’s working and private lives with 87% of the survey’s respondents citing an inability to switch off outside of working hours as the main negative effect within their workplace on employees.
However, with the public interest and understanding of mental health issues being on the rise, the report found that many employers have placed an emphasis on health and wellbeing in the workplace through various schemes. For those employers who invested in health and wellbeing at work, the report noted 44% better employee morale and engagement, and 31% lower sickness absence.
The emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace is being looked at at all levels of business including the UK government who led the way last year publishing their Thriving At Work review. Commissioned by the Prime Minister in January 2017, Lord Dennis Stevenson (mental health campaigner) and Paul Farmer (CEO of mental health charity, Mind) conducted an independent review of mental health in the workplace, as part of a package of measures which the Government intended to introduce to transform mental health support across the country.
According to the review’s findings, 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health illness, at a cost of £74-£99 billion to the UK economy. The financial implication of this should not overshadow the human cost – one in four of UK adults suffer some kind of mental health illness each year, with figures on the increase.
With the UK work force ever increasing we pose the question …what can employers do to support people with mental health issues in the workplace?
Keep up to date with current best practice and make use of the resources available to you
Raising mental health awareness has been firmly on the political agenda for the last few years. The forum’s helpline is always on hand to discuss illness concerns as well as providing templates, advice and guidance on how to handle any situation that has arisen within your workplace. The forum has recently entered into a partnership with clarity – an occupational health organisation that can assist employers with any and all workplace relates illnesses. In addition, charities like Mind also have brilliant resources available on their websites for employers trying to promote an open and supportive workplace culture.
Raise awareness within your organisation and encourage open and judgement-free discussion
Part of the problem with mental health illness is the stigma that attaches to it. Many employers state that they become awkward and uncomfortable when faced with an employee who they believe needs help, meaning that they avoid approaching that individual for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.
When it comes to discussing mental health issues, leading from the top down is of paramount importance. Senior staff should make it clear to all employees that they are on hand to discuss any concerns employees may have and do so in a confident yet empathetic manner, making the employee feel at ease and comfortable.
It is at this stage the Forum’s engagement team can help, providing expert guidance to walk you through these challenging situations.
Consider holding “mental health awareness” days, activities or other events throughout the year to encourage your employees to speak up. The Forum’s marketing team are always on hand to provide their expert advice on the best way to set up and run such events.
Review the policies and procedures which you have in place
As the CIPD’s survey indicates, workload, management style, technological advances in the workplace and home life issues are having a major impact on employees’ health and wellbeing.
Can you introduce policies (if you do not already have any in place) to support employees in respect of these matters? For example, can employees work flexibly or remotely from home to enable them to better manage childcare or other caring/family responsibilities? Do you offer part-time working opportunities? Are your maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave policies up to date?
What about your disciplinary and grievance policies and procedures? If people are having problems with a difficult manager or colleague, are they able (and more importantly, do they feel comfortable) raising their concerns with HR without fear of repercussions?
If your answer is no to any of the above questions do not hesitate in contacting the Forum. Within the member’s area of the website, there are templates, including the above-named and anything that you cannot find we can certainly guide you in the right direction.