Are We Doing Enough to Improve Workplace Mental Health?

Working through lunch?

Late nights at the office?

Back home to a ready meal and a phone that won’t stop ringing?

The chances are, many of us will have experienced an element of stress at work at some point in our careers. For many of us, stress can come across like a jolt into action or that nudge we needed to get going.

And yes, it’s true. A moderate level of stress has been shown to improve performance levels in many scenarios. And we’ve all come into contact with the office adrenaline junkie who lives for stress. The cliff-diving, off-piste skier that swam with sharks last year and hasn’t stopped going on about it.

But there’s a more serious side to stress and employers are beginning to pay attention. Stress over a long period of time is unhealthy. Prolonged and excessive stress can cause illness, exhaustion or further psychiatric problems. It’s not surprising that nearly a third of fit notes issued by GPs are for psychiatric problems, according to a recent NHS report.

It is reported that 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK and this costs employers a staggering £2.4 billion per year.

With such costs and legal obligations; as stated in the public sector equality duty, it’s easy to see why employers are taking workplace mental wellbeing seriously. It is becoming even more pivotal that all organisations develop a proactive approach to improving workplace mental health.

But are they doing enough?

Mental health charities have recently come to the forefront of innovative research and are engaging with employers to produce tailored wellbeing programmes that reduce stress and anxiety in high pressured environments. Many of these have been taken up by the public sector.

Although there have been promising signs from the central civil service with staff engagement ratings on the rise, there is still a lot of progress to be made. Rising workloads, reductions in staff numbers and increasing workplace pressure make it even more imperative for the public sector to develop and implement efficient workplace wellbeing programmes.

Many of these initiatives and strategies in the public sector are already being recognised by HR awards such as Engage who rewarded Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service with the award for Best Employee Health and Wellbeing Strategy. You can hear from Phil Garrigan, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Services in our upcoming conference.

But the battle has only been half won. With increased awareness about mental health challenges, the need for employers to be better equipped with handling and responding to such issues becomes even more vital. There is a duty for the public sector to be at the forefront in facing the challenges of modern society. It must improve in handling mental health challenges so it can be an example to the private sector. With the help of charities, such as Mind and the Mental Health Foundation, the public is improving at developing wellbeing strategies. There is, however, a long way to go until we have a productive, healthy workforce that feels comfortable confronting the mental health challenges of our era.

Contact us to find out when the next Improving Mental Health in the Workplace will be held, where you can learn how to equip your management team with a strategy to support employees with an array of mental health issues in the workplace.