14th May 2021
14th May 2021
Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, we read several posts on various social media platforms and articles, the results of which have been humbling and sobering. From individuals sharing their stories about losing loved ones to known and unknown mental health issues to the far-reaching statistics of mental health, it is evident that mental health needs to be championed.
It is important to discuss mental health awareness in the context of the workplace because work is where, for most of us, we spend the majority of our time. It follows that work can have a huge impact on our mental health and as an organisation, we can improve our workforce’s mental health.
For many there is a stigma surrounding mental health and so it can be very difficult to talk about. From the individual’s perspective, it can be hard to open up, where others may find they are unsure on how to approach the conversation. However, it is evident from the statistics that you are not alone and neither is your organisation.
The Health & Safety Executive’s annual statistics for 2019/20 were that 17.9 million days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The main contributors to work-related stress are not restricted to a single employer or industry, they are:-
So, if it affects everyone and every organisation, let’s get talking about this subject.
In some ways, COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on people’s mental health but in others it has been a catalyst for the discussion around mental health
On one hand, the Office for National Statistics reported that depression in adults doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the contributing factors being specifically about COVID-19, for example:-
However, many are also work related, such as:-
On the other hand, COVID-19 allowed many to reassess what was important to them and has opened the door in many organisations to discussing mental health and having a better understanding of how their workforce is doing. It certainly has created more connectivity and many organisations have set up informal or formal chats with their workforce just to catch up.
Rachel King, Group HR Director for the Camelot Group (the firm behind the National Lottery) has been tackling mental health for some time and introduced a mental health initiative.
In 2019 they launched a ‘place to be you’ campaign, allowing employees to be themselves at work. The idea being that if your workforce does not bring the whole of themselves to work, they cannot be their best self at work. The Camelot Group also offered to train people as mental health first aiders which was received overwhelmingly positively.
Part of the Camelot Group’s success is that it is driven not only by senior management and HR but also by the employees so it is not surprising to read that the Camelot Group’s culture engagement is at 92%.
The trade union, Prospect, is pushing for a ‘right to disconnect’ in an upcoming employment bill that initially was introduced in December 2019 but has been delayed because of the pandemic. Opinium, on behalf of Prospect, surveyed 2,428 people and found that 66% would back such a policy, allowing a legal right to switch off.
A recent survey by the recruitment firm, Robert Walters, found that 47% of 2,000 managers feared employees were at risk of burnout, following changes to working patterns with COVID. When you factor this with the main contributors to mental health issues, linked to work and the fact that Mercer’s Global Talen Trend survey found that employee experience was the number one priority for HR leaders in 2020, it indicates that failure to consider how your organisation could help the mental health of your workforce would be a risk undertaken at your own peril.
There are a number of ways in which mental health could affect your organisation:-
Failure to comply could result in:-
The benefits of championing mental health therefore clearly outweigh the negatives. By taking it seriously and tackling it, you will:-
A recent article about lawyer’s mental health arising from specific factors in this area of work, the closing sentiment was applicable everywhere:
‘instead of having to keep jumping in the water to save people from downing, help them avoid falling into the water in the first place’
The message taken away from this is that prevention is better than cure which seems particularly relevant, given the current pandemic.
We appreciate, of course, that mental health is not something that an organisation can wave a magic wand over and fix overnight. Neither is it a particularly easy subject, not least because of the various factors that give rise to mental health issues and the various types of mental health issues but also because everyone’s mental health journey is different.
We have set out below a few suggestions but it may also be worth looking at the Mental Health Foundation’s website which discusses mental health awareness week. The theme of this year is nature, something many of us have connected or re-connected with as our only means of going outside during the pandemic. The link to the website can be found below but the website includes:-
Some of the other suggestions for your organisation include:-
If you would like to discuss any employment issues arising from this article, whether that is considering your policies, allegations of failure to comply with your duty of care or discrimination, or just having a chat, please do not hesitate to speak to a member of the employment team on 01325 466794 and ask for Anthony Willis or Alexander Millward. Alternatively email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.