Written by Jacob Montague and

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In the UK, the rates of “Presenteeism” (working while sick) and “Leavism” (using flexitime or annual leave to rest while too ill to work) due to ill mental health are worsening. This lack of productivity is worrying, especially when considering that, even before any costly legal bills, ill mental health ended up costing UK employers up to £42 billion a year due to absenteeism.

Health and well-being at work is increasingly present in the minds of recruits when choosing their potential employers. Current and potential employees want assurance that, if an issue was to arise, there are adequate safeguards in place and that would ensure support at all levels, rather than lip-service being paid by CEOs and upper-level management. This is echoed in both the CIPD’s 2019 Health and Well-Being at Work survey and the Financial Times Health at Work Survey findings, alongside an overwhelming emphasis on the current lack of managerial action taken in such circumstances.

Nearly half of line managers and supervisors surveyed have been approached by employees struggling with their mental health. While it is true that awareness is increasing, it is not necessarily doing so at a fast-enough pace or resulting in positive outcomes in the workplace.

Here are some practical steps you can take to improve awareness and action at work:

  • It may seem obvious, but the first major step your business can take is making it clear to your employees that mental health is not a taboo subject. Whilst the surveys show us that a multitude of British employers marked last year’s World Mental Health Day by distributing fact sheets or the iconic green ribbons, this is unlikely to be seen as enough. Go further by implementing an open-door policy and encouraging discussions, whether in groups or individually. Be vocal about your support; according to SimplyHealth’s survey, little over half of those surveyed thought that senior leaders have employee well-being on their agenda, and only a quarter of employees who had access to such programmes knew they existed.
  • Train your line managers to notice when a staff member is experiencing a mental health issue or might be at risk. Often managers who are unskilled at dealing with these issues resort to performance management tactics rather than realising that battles with mental health are akin to a disability. The impact of this mismanagement is often irreversible so it is no surprise that close to a quarter of the organisations surveyed have not yet reported any benefit since implementing mental health and well-being activity. With education and patience, you can achieve a healthier workplace.
  • Once trained to spot the issue or likelihood of an issue, train your line managers to act sensitively and appropriately, i.e. by supporting the individual. In the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace study, one that involved over 250,000 employees, research showed that 83% of employees who used one-on-one coaching to support their mental health found it effective. The same study showed that over 74% of employees who participated in any intervention at all experienced a positive shift in their mental health.

Mental health issues in the work place should no longer be side-lined. Many of our Forbury People Consultants are trained mentors and coaches, contact us here for more information about how we can help your business adapt.

24th April 2019