28 Feb Psychological Well-Being in the Workplace by Mia Ford Honorary Assistant Psychologist
Why is good mental health important in the work place?
Most of us spend a large proportion of our adult lives at work. Therefore, our experience during this time is a very significant factor in determining our general wellbeing and mental health.
One in four people in the UK experience some form of mental health issue each year. Stress, depression and anxiety are the most common, and not only have a negative impact on the individual, but impair our ability to work productively.
Poor mental health within a workforce can negatively impact on the business by increasing staff turnover, sickness absence, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity. Every year in the UK, 70 million work days are lost to mental health illnesses, this costs Britain between £70 and £100 billion a year.
A negative work environment can create or impact existing mental health problems. However, employers can dramatically increase their mental employees’ health and productivity by setting up work place initiatives that both identify early signs of mental health issues and support those with them.
Staff who feel looked after and appreciated are more motivated, engaged and loyal.
Those who feel uncared for are more likely to consider leaving their job. Basic line manger relationships are vital to providing employee support, especially during difficult business times and for those experiencing mental health issues. It is important for line managers to spend time getting to know their staff, so they can recognise when something is wrong.
Equally important are continued check ins with an employee that has settled back into work (after experiencing mental health issues), to help prevent a relapse.
Third party courses are available for training management teams, to confidently identify early signs of mental health issues and know how to manage them appropriately. Managers do not need to become mental health experts, but should be able to signpost the support and resources available.
Prevention is the key to good mental health in the work place.
Make employees aware of coping strategies such as how to manage stress, unmanaged stress often leads to mental health issues.
Help employees to positively adapt to work place changes by providing guidance and support. To reduce the stigma attached to mental health and make it okay for people to speak up, encourage open conversations about it.
Create a peer-to-peer support group, drop-in sessions, or a buddie system; where employees can talk openly about things concerning them.
Include mental health support, such as counselling, legal advice and income protection (which provides a regular replacement income for people if they are unable to work) in the employee benefits package. This can help reduce the stress anxiety often experienced by employees during poor mental health.
Use return to work interviews can be useful to ensure employees are not returning to work too soon. The introduction of ‘rehabilitation return to work programmes’ are effective at reducing the stress of returning to work, after experiencing a mental health illness. They ease the employee back into work starting with a few hours every day, which are gradually increase each week until full work hours are reached.
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For more information on how to increase good mental health within your work environment please check out the links below:
Mental Health Foundation: Managing mental health in the workplace
Health Ambition: Beyond blue – How to deal with stress at work