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The costly taboo of mental health at work

Posted on 02.12.2016

The taboo of talking about mental health at work is costing us more than our well-being

Historically the term ‘employee engagement’ was an alien concept to many businesses. Twenty years ago, few in the corporate world were thinking about it and even fewer were talking about mental health and their employees’ well-being. However, it’s common practice today.

The rise of speedy work schedules, heavier deadlines and unmanageable workloads is leading to increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety. Not only is this bad for the suffering employees, but it’s also bad for businesses.

According to the employment relations organisation ACAS, “mental health problems cost employers in the UK £30 billion a year through lost production, recruitment and absence." And research from the mental health charity Mind confirms that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly: More than one in five (21 %) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.

It’s time we start talking openly about mental health at work

According to recent findings, only 25% of people with mental health problems receive support each year. That means a huge number of employees in the UK are spending their days with minimal motivation, work output, focus and struggling to make appropriate business decisions.

There is still a lot of work to do in breaking down the stigma that comes with mental illness, but it is imperative that management invest in a number of different approaches to promote well-being. Thereby sending out a clear message that the mental health of their employees is valued by the organisation.

There are practical steps we can take to help manage mental health at work, such as monitoring workloads, employee involvement, the physical environment and the nature of relationships at work. By fostering a healthy workplace culture and taking the right steps to support staff with mental health problems, we will be able to increase productivity, profitability and staff commitment.

While we’re doing better than we were 20 years ago, we have not yet gone far enough with engagement in the workplace. It is not something extra, a ‘perk’, it is something that should be integrated into how we lead and manage every day. It offers promise and inspiration and builds the foundation for a successful business and happy team. Take care of your employees and don't be afraid to talk openly about mental health at work.

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