Written by Jacob Montague and

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Last week saw both National Work Life Week and World Mental Health Day, two increasingly important yearly milestones that have become synonymous with the promotion of happy and healthy employees.

National Work life Week aims to give employers the opportunity to focus on better wellbeing at work and, in particular, to help employees switch off and therefore attain a greater work-life balance. For many employees, the ability to switch off is one of life’s great challenge. This challenge has become all the more difficult to manage given the development of technology that beams content straight to our personal devices, creating the illusion that we are always ‘available’. When employees, quite understandably, cannot fulfil these habitually self-imposed high standards, struggles with mental health often begin to peer around the corner.

Mental Health ‘Days’ and ‘Weeks’ are a great first step, but time and time again we read of surveys that point to a lack of training and a lack of understanding around mental health in the workplace. Alerting you and your employees to mental health issues is one thing, implementing the necessary steps to combat these issues is the next, wholly more complicated step.  Recent research seems to suggest that those in managerial positions are most effected by this.

A recent survey by TalkOut of 200 senior managers and 2000 workers showcased some worrying trends. The survey reported that 51% of managers admitted they considered workers who were mentally unwell to be a ‘liability’ while 65% of managers thought that talking about mental health at work was a sign of weakness. In turn, this meant that 84% of employees surveyed felt that they risked missing out on a promotion if they admitted having any mental health issues. Hays reported similar results. Half of the professionals they surveyed believed that there was unequal access to career progression opportunities because of mental health stigma, while 26% of those had actually experienced that stigma in action. With World Mental Health Day now in its 27th year, the existence of such stigma shows that employers have a long way to go, some making little to no progress at all.

The result of this lack of understanding and open-door approach to discussion?: those in a managerial position are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition than other employees. Research by Ipsos MORI for Teladoc Health showed that 31% of managers had, at some point in their professional career, been diagnosed with a mental health related issue. Why? Commenting for People Management, Rachel Suff of the CIPD believes that “if you get somebody disclosing [mental health issues] to you, and you haven’t been trained to deal with mental health issues, that could be really nerve-wracking”.

This cyclical lack of communication between managers and employees is overwhelmingly likely to have a negative impact on your business, and the two areas most affected will be employee retention and productivity; latest figures report that a poor attitude to mental health in the workplace costs the UK economy around £34 Billion a year. If you are serious about understanding and changing your business’s attitude and approach to mental health, our consultants are here to help.

Contact an Forbury People expert here. 

11th October 2019