Website launched to raise awareness of mental health at work

Earlier this week, Prince William officially launched a new website designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and improve mental well-being in the workplace. The website, ‘Mental Health at Work’, has been funded by the Royal Foundation and created in partnership with mental health charity Mind.

The website will be open to all businesses and offers a number of free resources designed for both employers and their staff. There are tailored training programmes, toolkits and case studies which cover a variety of topics associated with mental ill health.  The intention is to reduce the stigma currently surrounding mental health, encouraging more open discussion around a topic that has traditionally been considered taboo in the workplace and providing businesses with the resources to support their employees.

This launch coincides with release of related research carried out by Mind, which found that 48% of UK employees have experienced mental health problems in their current job, only half of whom felt comfortable enough to disclose this to their employer.

The report also highlights the role of line managers in supporting employee wellbeing.  Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD said:

“They [line managers] are often the first port of call for someone needing help and are most likely to see warning signs of poor mental health among employees.  With the right capabilities and tools in place, they will have the ability and confidence to have sensitive conversations, intervene when needed, and signpost to the right support when needed.”

The report suggests using regular catch-ups and supervised meetings to monitor staff wellbeing and being alert to potential workplace triggers for distress, such as long hours or the absence of colleagues which can lead to unmanageable workloads for the rest of their team.  It emphasizes that managers must be prepared to address these issues directly and offer support.

“Employees still don’t feel able to talk about issues such as stress, anxiety or depression, fearing they’ll be discriminated against or overlooked for promotion,” warned Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind.

“Equally, managers often shy away from the subject, worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. But staying silent and doing nothing can make things worse.”

When an employee discloses mental ill-health at work, the report stresses that managers should be prepared to make reasonable adjustments – such as relaxing requirements to work set hours and allowing flexible working, giving employees time off for appointments related to their mental health, such as counselling, and increasing one-to-one meetings.

Whilst some employers may be reluctant to take action due to concerns over costs and resources, a failure to address this issue could in fact prove to be more expensive as a 2017 Deloitte study estimated mental health issues cost UK employers between £44billion and £42billion in absences and lost productivity.

Dr Philip McCrea, chief medical officer at BHSF, said:

“Without early intervention strategies, an open workplace culture and a proactive approach to employee mental health, this issue is not going away. In fact, it will continue to spiral out of control if employers do not take action now, leading to a decrease in productivity and a devastating effect on the wellbeing of the UK’s workforce.”

Employers who ensure that mental health support is as an integral part of their workplace culture are likely to be rewarded with improved morale, increased productivity and a reduction in sickness absence.

Click here to return to PBS HR Newsletter – October 2018