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The concept of wellbeing in the workplace is often neglected, yet it is vital to both the health of employees as well as the businesses they work in. Wellbeing is relevant to everyone in a business, whatever their job title and responsibilities. The dictionary definition of wellbeing is ‘a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterised by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare’. Here, in the first of a series of three blogs, we look at mental wellbeing.

For a business to succeed, its workforce needs a robust state of wellbeing. If wellbeing is overlooked it could lead to spiralling costs from absences, with a consequent loss of productivity and business potential.

As a concept, wellbeing can be divided into three main areas: mental, physical and financial. These three areas are interdependent in many ways, so if any one of these is affected it will often impact the other two.

It is important to recognise that mental health problems and stress can affect anyone, no matter what station they have in life, or how successful they are perceived to be. Mental health can be defined as our state of mind, how we are feeling and our ability to cope with our day-to-day lives.

Those employers who ignore mental health issues run the risk of increased staff sickness and absence. According to mental health charity Mind:

  • 1 in 6 workers experience stress, low mood or poor mental health
  • 42% have considered resigning due to workplace stress
  • 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason
  • 49% said they felt uncomfortable talking to their employer about mental health.

The case for employers to invest in their staffs’ mental wellbeing is overwhelming. Legally, they could be in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and/or the Equalities Act if they don’t. Financially it is a wise investment, while morally and ethically it is the right thing to do.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimates that 30% of the costs caused by mental ill-health can be saved with simple steps, while the return on investment of workplace mental health interventions is overwhelmingly positive. In November 2017, the Lancet published a study from the University of New South Wales that found that for every £1 that was spent on mental health at work, the return was £9.98.

A multitude of factors can negatively impact on an individual’s mental health. These might include changes in the workplace, long working hours and unmanageable workloads. Those suffering may lose confidence, fail to build and maintain positive relationships or cope with the pressures of daily life. In some scenarios, those affected develop psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, panic attacks or depression, for which professional help is required.

It is the responsibility of everyone, including HR, line managers and colleagues, to spot the warning signs of adverse mental health. It is also vital that employees know where they can raise their concerns, while managers need to have the awareness and skills to support and manage the mental wellbeing of their colleagues. 

Every firm should have a Mental Health Policy to help foster a workplace environment that supports and enhances the mental wellbeing of all employees. This policy should outline the commitments of the firm and responsibilities of its management and employees.

It should aim to strengthen the positive, protective factors of employment, reduce risk factors for mental ill health and improve general health. The implementation of this policy should also be supported by other policies including flexible working, sickness absence, dignity at work and equal opportunities. The policy should outline where employees are able to talk openly about mental health problems and to report difficulties without fear, knowing that they will be treated fairly and consistently.

The responsibilities of management range from ensuring and maintaining good channels of communication to monitoring workloads and providing the requisite training and resources. Employees have responsibilities to raise concerns, seek help where necessary and accept opportunities for counselling when recommended.

Employers have a duty to safeguard their employees’ mental health, and to encourage a mentally healthy and positive working environment. For more information on mental health in the workplace, please visit https://www.acas.org.uk/mentalhealth.