The financial impact of mental health issues
The majority of UK employees still struggle to identify symptoms of common mental health conditions, resulting in treatment delays for millions. Approximately one in four British people experience problems with their mental health each year. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health condition, according to Mind.
The cost to employers of poor mental health costs is between £33bn and £42bn a year. This amounts to a cost per employee of between £1,205 and £1,560 per year. This cost is for all employees, not just those who are ill. This equates to 70 million working days lost in the UK.
As well as the clear business case, there is the moral obligation for an employer to provide a healthy workplace, and they also have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010. Employers are realising the importance of addressing mental health issues and recently a group of business leaders and unions wrote an open letter to Theresa May calling for the government to overhaul health and safety rules to ensure all organisations have trained staff to deal with mental health.
So what are the common triggers?
We all have different triggers for what makes us feel stressed or anxious - what one person may find stressful, someone else may find exciting. However the common triggers are: changes at work, including redundancy or relocation, increasing volume or pressure of work, challenging relationships at work or with difficult clients or suppliers, bereavement, divorce, moving home, a new baby and even Christmas can be a stressful time.
Signs and symptoms
In the same way that we have different triggers, we experience different physical and emotional symptoms. The common ones to look out for in the workplace are: Changes in behaviour - becoming withdrawn, irritable or tearful, increased days off sick, poor performance, poor quality work or making mistakes, a lack of attention to appearance or looking unkempt, complaining of tiredness or a lack of energy, struggling with tasks that they would normally find straightforward.
It is vital that the person gets support sooner rather than later as if the situation is left unmanaged or unsupported it may get worse and result in a longer absence.
How to support someone who may be struggling?
The first thing to do is have a conversation to show that you care. Ask them how they are feeling and what's going on for them. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally. Depending on the situation, find out what support they have and help them identify further professional support if needed.
As employers we cannot be responsible for the source of stressors for our employees, however we do have a legal and moral obligation to provide a healthy place of work and a culture where people feel valued and able to speak up to get the support they need. Consider the volume of unnecessary work emails (a very common complaint) and develop policies to reduce the reliance; are people aware of employee assistance programmes, are people trained in mental health, either as qualified first aiders or at least an awareness, are there clear, and known, policies in place for people to get support; do leaders role model in setting the tone of a positive work life balance?
MHFA has lots of resources and managers toolkits for best practice: https://mhfaengland.org/
Content kindly contributed by Anna Golawski of Stratus Coaching Ltd in Hove.