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Employee Wellbeing 2019

Mental wellbeing in the workplace

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Emma Mamo

Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind

We all have mental health, just as we have physical health. Considering how much time many of us spend at work, it’s not surprising our workplace can have a big impact on our wellbeing.

300,000 of us with long-term mental health problems fall out of work every year. Right now, many of us with mental health problems do not have the rights and protections at work that we need. But, with the right support, those with mental health problems can and do provide a valuable contribution to the workplace and excel in their roles.

Mind recently surveyed over 44,000 employees who took part in our Workplace Wellbeing Index this year, and found that almost half (48%) had experienced poor mental health, such as stress, low mood, and anxiety, while working at their current organisation. So it’s crucial employers feel confident in supporting employees.

Supporting colleagues with a mental health problem

It’s good to see forward-thinking businesses increasingly prioritising staff wellbeing, but this isn’t occurring across the board. Organisations should do what they can to equip employees with the skills and knowledge needed to identify and support colleagues when they are experiencing a mental health problem, while also looking after their own wellbeing.

It’s important that staff do not feel it is their responsibility to act as a medical professional but rather to listen non-judgmentally, be supportive and signpost to support both internally and externally – something Mental Health First Aid or other mental health awareness training courses can help with.

As highlighted in the government-commissioned, independent review ‘Thriving at Work’, published in October 2017, all organisations can and should be meeting six mental health core standards, including: developing mental health awareness, providing training for line managers and routinely monitoring mental health and wellbeing.

It’s good to see forward-thinking businesses increasingly prioritising staff wellbeing, but this isn’t occurring across the board.

We should all feel safe and secure in work

All of us with mental health problems should be able to feel safe and secure in work. That must include when we take time off sick, and we must feel that we are protected from discrimination around mental health problems. Having to take time off work for mental health is something no one should be discriminated for. The incoming UK government must do much more to better protect our rights at work.

Tips for employers in the workplace:

Time to Change, the mental health anti-stigma movement led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, wants every employer to create a working environment where people can open up to mental health problems. Here are some tips from them on reducing stigma in the workplace.

  • Leading by example. More senior leaders need to be open about their own experiences with mental health problems to show that it isn’t a sign of weakness and it won’t hinder your career if you open up to your colleagues.
  • Being clear about why a mentally healthy workplace is valuable. A workplace where everyone is supported to talk openly about their mental health creates a positive, inclusive and more productive workplace for everyone.
  • Talking things through with line managers. Line managers need to feel comfortable having conversations about mental health with their direct reports. It doesn’t need to be difficult or scary, simply raising the issue or asking how they are feeling is a great start. Avoiding the issue could make people feel more inclined to hide their mental health problem.
  • Be clear about how employees will be treated. Employees need to know that they will be treated fairly and without negative consequences if they disclose a mental health problem at work.
  • Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. This applies to any employee experiencing a disability under the Equality Act 2010, which can include a mental health problem if it has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on day-to-day activities. Employers need to see promoting good mental health as more than a legal obligation.

Employers and employees can find information and practical steps to promote wellbeing, tackle stress and poor mental health at work by visiting www.mind.org.uk/work

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