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The case for boosting mental health in the workplace is clearer than ever

A young businesswoman standing against a glass wall with her head in her hand
More than seven in 10 employees have experienced mental health problems

Stress, anxiety and depression are common in every workplace, regardless of size or sector. A recent study by Mind of almost 44,000 workers found that more than seven in 10 employees have experienced mental health problems in their lives, while more than one in two are affected by poor mental health in their current workplace. 

It’s clear that mental health at work is an issue that warrants investment from employers. A recent by Deloitte found that companies that put money into staff wellbeing are seeing a return on investment of around £5 for every £1 spent.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appEmployers who do so are more likely to report a workforce that is loyal, motivated and productive, and less likely to need to take time off sick, or leave altogether.

Lots of employers are taking steps to create mentally healthy workplaces2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app. But the signs are we’re only at the beginning of the journey. According to Business in the Community, about 9pc of employees who disclosed a mental health problem at work said that they faced demotion, disciplinary procedures or even dismissal as a result.

It’s no surprise that lots of staff don’t feel able to open up about their mental health at work, if they think they will be victims of outdated and inaccurate assumptions around mental health and their ability to do their jobs. This is simply unacceptable in the modern world of work.

I2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appdeally, everyone should be able to talk openly about their mental health and know that if they did, they’d be met with support and understanding, rather than facing stigma and discrimination. But we know that the culture of an organisation can play a role in how able staff feel to speak out. 

E2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appmployers have a legal duty to make to any employee experiencing a disability under the Equality Act 2010. A mental health problem is included in the definition of a disability if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on normal day-to-day activities. 

Adjustments need not be expensive; typically they might include flexible hours or a change to start or finish time; change of workspace; changes to role (temporary or permanent); changes to break times; increased support from managers with workloads; or provision of quiet rooms.

Small, inexpensive measures, such as free fruit, subsidised gym membership, flexible working hours and generous annual leave can all make a difference.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appSuch steps also create a virtuous circle in that they make a company more attractive to prospective employees. When deciding where to work, increasingly people are looking at what workplace wellbeing initiatives prospective employers offer, rather than just things like salary, annual leave and pensions.

T2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围apphe culture of a workplace can be the difference between an employee talking about and asking for help with their mental health, or not. Employees staying silent is problematic and can lead to health getting worse, potentially resulting in longer spells of time off.

The Deloitte report also found a rise in "presenteeism" – unwell staff spending unproductive hours at work rather than taking time off. As presenteeism costs three times more than sick leave, it’s important we look at supporting employers to change the culture so their staff feel able to take time off when they are unwell, with managers and senior staff leading by example.

There’s a role for employers, but the Government must play its part too. We want ministers to improve the definition of a disability under the Act so that more employees with mental health problems can access rights and protections.

A2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appt the moment, lots of people with mental health problems aren’t aware that they could meet the criteria and therefore aren’t disclosing, while employers don’t always know that they have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to support disabled staff to thrive in their roles. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appWe also need to see an increase to the amount of statutory sick pay staff receive when they’re off sick, so that employees don’t have to choose between getting better or being able to pay their bills. We know that money problems can make mental health worse, so people often come back to work before they’re ready, which causes even more problems down the line.

Employers should offer phased returns and keep in touch with staff while they’re off sick about their roles and responsibilities, to make the transition back to work easier for both sides.

Changing a culture doesn’t happen overnight, but steps in the right direction will lead to a happier workforce overall - and ultimately benefit, not harm, a company’s bottom line.

Emma Mamo is Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind

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What do you think employers need to do to boost mental health in the workplace? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.