Prolonged stress can both cause and worsen mental health problems, which can result in sleep and concentration problems. Identifying and tackling the sources of stress in the workplace can prevent issues spiralling.
Since we all have mental health, employers should prioritise the wellbeing of all staff, whether they are struggling with their mental health or not.
Organisations that promote staff wellbeing are rewarded in terms of increased staff morale and productivity and decreased sickness absence. Small, inexpensive changes such as offering flexible-working hours, buddy systems and regular catch-ups with managers can make a huge difference and save businesses a great deal of money in the long run.
Employers are starting to take these issues more seriously, in large part because of the high costs associated with poor mental health including sickness absence , staff turnover and reduced productivity.
Despite some progress, most employees still don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. According to a poll we conducted, published in November 2014, 95% of employees who took time off sick because of stress gave their boss another reason for their absence, such as a headache. Only 5% told their employer they had needed time off due to stress.
Similarly, an Axa PPP Healthcare survey, published in April 2015, found that more than two-thirds (69%) of managers didn’t feel mental ill health was a valid reason for time off sick. Staff need to be assured that if they do open up, they will be supported.
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer has a duty to make adjustments for an employee with a disability, including a mental health problem. Adjustments are typically inexpensive and might include offering flexible hours or changes to start or finish times; changes to role; increased support from managers in prioritising and managing workload; and quiet rooms. Supporting staff is more than a legal obligation; it is part of being a responsible employer.
Any employer worried about a colleague’s wellbeing should ask them how they are doing. They should try not to make assumptions about their mental health and how it might affect their ability to do their job. A well-supported member of staff experiencing a mental health problem can carry out their role to a high standard.
Emma Mamo is head of workplace wellbeing at Mind