Mental Health in the Workplace

More people than ever are working with mental health conditions. Roughly 15 out of every 100 people are suffering, often in silence. But do we really understand what mental health is? Do you know the signs to look out for in yourself and others? For those of you who employ or manage a team, are you doing what you can to make sure you’ve created a safe, supportive and open work place?

The difference between mental and physical health

Physical health conditions affect the body. They include things such as sports injuries, diabetes and arthritis. Mental health conditions are those which affect the way in which an individual feels, thinks and acts. Mental health includes conditions such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Every single one of us has mental health. Our mental health moves between 3 main groups. Those groups are:

  1. Doing great and feeling happy
  2. Finding times a little tough
  3. Struggling to manage feelings, becoming ill and possibly having time off work

If someone is struggling with their mental health they might try to keep their problems hidden. This is often due to fear of workplace discrimination or negative reactions from others. Before we look at the signs to look out for, let’s look at some striking numbers.

Some shocking statistics

Research from mental health charity Mind shows that more than 1 in 5 employees have called in sick to avoid workplace stress. When asked how workplace stress affected them 14% had resigned and a shocking 42% had considered resigning. CIPD’s recent report into health and well-being at work showed that 40% of employers reported an increase in stress related employee sickness.

As well as having a moral duty of care to have a keen interest in employee’s mental health, it’s also in the best interests financially too. A government report, conducted with the help of Deloitte, found that 30,000 employees suffering with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs yearly.

With a high staff turnover comes high recruitment costs, working out to around £2.4 billion a year! A lack of support from employers can lead to employees taking large amounts of time off work. The yearly cost to employers is between £33 billion to £42 billion. The total cost to the UK as a result of poorly supported mental health is between £73-97 billion! So, what can we all do to help these figures?

What to look out for?

Every one of us needs to learn not only how to look after our own mental health, but also to notice if the mental health of those around us is changing. Here are some of the signs which could indicate an individual’s mental health state is changing:

  • A lack of focus or motivation – appearing distracted
  • Isolating themselves away from others
  • Appearing more tired/sleep-deprived
  • Excessively eating or drinking alcohol
  • Outbursts of emotion or anger
  • Seeming anxious or withdrawn

If you or someone you know is showing cause for concern, this is the time to seek support. If you don’t feel comfortable or supported enough to speak to someone in the workplace there are some key support numbers featured at the end of this post, so please reach out.

What can employers do?

As an employer you should be striving to create a workplace where people feel safe to be themselves and fully supported. It’s important to have a clear mental health at work plan, offering regular check-ins to support employee health and well-being, particularly if they are currently finding things tough or going through hard times.

A simple starting point is to think about your work space design. Try to keep space as open as possible to reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation. Steer clear of fenced off desks and, as much as practically possible, try not to have people sitting with their backs facing each other. Shared breakout spaces where people can eat together, take a break from their desks etc are great for encouraging employees to talk in a safe space.

Champion the use of enterprise social networking tools to create an open office culture with honest, regular conversations. Anonymous staff surveys can be used to build data relating to staff wellness and mental health. Use the results of these surveys to implement plans and activities which will improve general staff well-being.

Employees should feel good being at work, ensuring they have a sense of purpose will go a long way. If you have exhausted all measures or feel that someone might need more help than you are able to offer, professional help may be required. Occupational health agencies can help you with this level of support.

Over 6000 people a year, in the UK alone, die by suicide. This needs to change. Help in the fight against loneliness and challenging mental health conditions.

Mental Health Support Lines:

Samaritans: 113123
Mind: 0300 123 3393
SANE: 0300 304 7000
Rethink: 0300 500 0927