Our Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Emma Mamo, blogs on why the new Workplace Wellbeing Index is so important.
Right now, one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. Too often, employees are scared to tell their manager about a mental health problem and managers are unsure how best to support staff when they do. This can stop people performing at their best.
"Since we all have mental health, employers should prioritise the wellbeing of all staff, whether they are currently experiencing a mental health problem or not."
Organisations that promote staff wellbeing are rewarded in terms of increased staff morale and productivity and decreased sickness absence. Small, inexpensive changes such as offering flexible-working hours, buddy systems and regular catch-ups with managers can make a huge difference and save businesses a great deal of money in the long run.
According to a recent survey by Deloitte, the things which employees value have changed. They found that millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) who have been entering the job market throughout the early 21st century place greater emphasis on a healthy work-life balance and a positive workplace culture, and are more likely to turn their back on their employer if these needs aren’t met. Employers need to take workplace culture more seriously, and some are doing so.
Despite this, most employees still don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health at work. A poll we conducted found that 95% of employees who took time off sick because of stress gave their boss another reason for their absence, such as a headache. Only 5% told their employer they had needed time off due to stress.
Similarly, an AXA PPP Healthcare survey, published in April 2015, found that more than two-thirds (69%) of managers didn’t feel mental ill health was a valid reason for time off sick.
"Staff need to be assured that if they do open up, they will be supported."
Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer has a duty to make adjustments for an employee with a disability, including a mental health problem. Adjustments are typically inexpensive and might include offering flexible hours or changes to start or finish times; changes to role; increased support from managers in prioritising and managing workload; and the provision of quiet rooms where people can take time out if they need to. However, supporting staff is more than a legal obligation; it is part of being a responsible employer.
"Any employer worried about a colleague’s wellbeing should ask them how they are doing."
Try not to make assumptions about their mental health and how it might affect their ability to do their job. A well-supported member of staff experiencing a mental health problem can carry out their role to a high standard.
Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of progress being made as mental health rises up the workplace agenda. We are now at a tipping point, with increasing acknowledgement from employers that more needs to be done to help people stay well at work, to tackle the root causes of work-related ill health and to support people who are experiencing a mental health problem in the workplace.
"It’s time to turn that awareness into action."
At Mind, over the next five years, we want to support a million people to stay well and have good mental health at work. To help achieve this, we are launching a Workplace Wellbeing Index which will enable employers to celebrate the good work they’re doing to promote staff mental wellbeing and get the support they need to be able to do this even better. The Index will be a benchmark of best policy and practice and will publicly rank employers on how effectively they are addressing staff mental wellbeing.
Be part of our movement for change in workplace mental health by starting your journey towards better mental health in your organisation today.
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.