Practical steps employers can take to tackle the stigma of stress in the workplace

December 8, 2015

stress at work

Let me start by telling you some statistics…

  • In 2014/15, 23.3 million days were lost due to work-related stress;
  • Productivity losses due to personal or family health problems cost employers billions of pounds a year;
  • 70% of employees say they have to work late and work overtime to get ahead;
  • Since the 1970s, the average work week has increased whilst leisure time has decreased by 37%;
  • Depression results in more disabilities than chronic health conditions like heart disease.

…the list goes on.

There is mounting evidence to support the fact that companies perform better if their staff are healthy and motivated so it will be no surprise to hear that an employee with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress is unlikely to be performing at their best. Smart employers seek to support their employees with mental health issues and to manage their condition. These employers recognise in return, they will increase engagement, nurture loyalty and strengthen commitment.

So what practical steps can employers take to support staff with mental health issues?

Mind, a mental health charity offers a vast amount of information for employers on how to work with employees suffering from mental health issues. In one of their guides, they refer to:

  • Creating a culture that encourages employees to be open about their mental health. A simple way to do this is to ensure policies make it clear that mental health conditions will be treated in the same way as physical conditions. Managers need to be approachable and confident about how to handle conversations regarding mental health which should encourage employees to open up;
  • Training employees on how to have a conversation with someone about their mental health. There are no special skills for this – just ones we use every day like common sense and empathy, however it is important managers know how to approach the matter sensitively and what support they are able to offer;
  • Supporting an employee experiencing a mental health problem. Policies on making adjustments to an employee’s employment are critical and focusing on what can be done to help rather than what cannot;
  • Managing an employee’s time off sick and their return to work requires employers to be proactive, positive and supportive which involves maintaining contact during the sick absence.

It doesn’t have to end there – as you may know, in 2007 the English government launched its most ambitious campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems. Since this began, there has been an overall 8.3% improvement in public attitudes and over 300 employers have signed up to the pledge which  is an aspirational statement that an organisation wants to take action to tackle the stigma and discrimination around mental health.

It is clear with these numbers that there is still more to be done. If you haven’t already, signing up to the pledge could be what you need to demonstrate to your workforce your commitment to the issue and to making changes (click here for details).

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