The findings of a survey by independent charity Health@Work, released to coincide with Stress Awareness Month, has revealed that most employers fail to meet even the most basic of standards when it comes to supporting staff with mental health.
It’s well known that mental health issues are amongst the most common reasons for employees taking time off. It costs businesses literally billions in sickness absence and reduced productivity per year. Still though, the findings suggest that not enough is done by employers to improve employee wellbeing.
In fact, a third of businesses take no action in this area. The associated risks for employers are many. From low morale, to lack of trust between management and workers, to long-term absence and even the risk of legal action being taken, there are many reasons why businesses need to review their practices and create better, fit for purpose solutions.
Commenting on the findings, Charlotte Cross from the Better Health at Work Alliance, said, ‘The obstacles facing organisations are less about awareness these days, and more about practicalities and the need to be bold. Increased knowledge of mental health challenges has not yet removed the stigma that surrounds them, so employers still find this a tricky area to engage with’.
In short, employers know that this is an issue. Too often though, they’re lacking the confidence and the practical knowledge to take positive steps towards better supporting their staff. The day-to-day management of positive initiatives and changes in workplace culture are also issues to be considered. With targets to hit and the general running of the business to be taken care of, it’s easy to think of wellness drives as a ‘nice to have’. Ultimately, they all too often get pushed to the bottom of busy managers’ piles.
Supporting mental health at work is not just a positive for employees. The business benefits are evident too, and for many, the findings of this study will act as a wake-up call for shaking up practices.
It’s important to note too that supporting mental health at work can be easier and less resource intensive than people initially imagine. A few options that you may want to consider include providing mental health training for those with line management responsibility, or offering more flexible working provisions.