Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is becoming of increasing importance with businesses having a greater interest as to what steps they can take to address this issue and support their employees. Both the day-to-day pressures that individuals face with a heavy workload and the demand to be available 24/7 via communications puts workers under constant strain and often their mental health will suffer as a result.
As Mental Health Awareness week falls upon us, Greenaway Scott takes a look at why mental health is important, the risks your business can face if you ignore it and the practical steps you can take to tackle this ever growing issue.
Why is mental health so important?
The reality for those suffering with a mental health issue is that they often feel that they are unable to talk about the issue due to the stigma which is attached to such a taboo topic. A person wouldn't ignore a physical issue that they have, however will often ignore anxiety or depression because they don't want to recognise the problem and feel ashamed to speak to others.
This is especially the case with young males with suicide being the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK. Ensuring that your employees don't suffer from a mental health illness will mean that you are a contributor to conquering the stigma and you will increase productivity within your business. You can also ensure that the reputation and image of your company is positive and you will help to improve the general health and wellbeing of your employees.
What are the risks to your business if you ignore it?
It is key to remember that mental health issues are not just an issue for the employee suffering but also the business as a whole. If an employee is suffering from anxiety or depression then they may not be able to come to work or could feel distracted at work leading to critical mistakes. This could have a huge financial impact on your business. As an employer, you could also be at risk of facing claims of disability discrimination, victimisation or harassment.
If an employee has a mental illness, this may constitute a disability under the Equality Act 2010 which would place an employer under a positive obligation to make reasonable adjustments for employees. In addition to this, even if a mental illness is not considered a disability, it is best practice to assist employees wherever you can for staff morale, and so employees feel appreciated and supported in their roles. Employers are under a duty to ensure the health and safety at work for employees, which may include taking steps to assist with stress, or the triggers that may lead to anxiety/depression.
The steps that you can take to conquer the issue
Businesses are planning for Mental Health to be at the forefront of their business plan and are making sure that the issue is no longer just swept under the carpet to ensure that employees feel that they are able to openly discuss with their employer if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. What you are able to do to tackle this issue may depend on the size of your business.
For a smaller/medium size business, you could take steps to ensure that there are Mental Health First Aiders available for your employees to approach if necessary, appropriate procedures and policies are in place and that your business takes a general culture of acceptance towards the issue of mental wellbeing. This could even include activities and events for employees to increase wellbeing within the workplace or simply promoting a sustainable work-life balance. For larger businesses, it could be necessary for a health risk assessment to be carried out.
This will give companies a true insight into how their employees are feeling to assist them with what aid they could put in place to help them feel less stressed.