In the 7/8 years I have worked in the Health & Safety industry the focus on mental health has shifted dramatically. Thankfully, due to increased publicity, businesses are changing how they view mental health and offering more support to their employees, yet it still seems to be one of the few areas in health & safety where the statistics are not reflecting change.
In 2021/2022 the HSE released their annual statistics stating that 17 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. The number of new and longstanding cases of workplace stress, depression and anxiety has increased from just over 800,000 cases in 2020/2021 to 914,000 cases – 14 % increase (1).
There could be a number of factors that have led to these increases. The HSE acknowledges the pandemic has had an impact on the figures and there is the possibility that, prior to mental health being de-stigmatised, previously employees may not have disclosed why they were taking time off work.
How to create positive change
There are a number of ways businesses can have a lasting positive impact on their employee’s mental health:
Directors and Managers need to create an open and supportive environment – This can be done by:
- Regular one to ones with employees which have mental wellbeing on the agenda. Look at incorporating the HSEs Management Standards. Here you’ll be able to download a free workplace stress assessment, use this to identify trends, not just in individuals but across the business. Are some departments displaying more signs of stress that others? Why is this? Do some Managers need additional training in handling mental health? Without data how do you know how mental health is affecting your workforce? With improved wellbeing there will be improved productivity.
- Provide mental health awareness training. This could encompass e-learning for all employees to arranging mental health first aider training to a select number of employees.
- Educate Management on how to spot symptoms of someone struggling with stress and how to support them moving forward
- Provide employees access to Employee Assistance Programs which allow them to access support without having to go through the company. If you do offer this service then ensure all employees know about it and how to access it.
- Introduce flexible working if possible. Did you know that some adults with ADHD/anxiety/depression may struggle to sleep, allow employees to start later and finish later if possible.
Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand, and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12% (2).