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A major study into workplace wellbeing by the mental health charity Mind has revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread, with half (48 per cent) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
The survey of more than 44,000 employees also revealed that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it, suggesting that as many as one in four UK workers is struggling in silence.
These findings are revealed as a new online Mental Health at Work ‘gateway’ is launched today by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Mind, with support from The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations, has created the UK-wide portal as a free resource for both employers and employees.
The gateway brings together information, advice, resources and training that workplaces can use to improve wellbeing and give employees the mental health support they need.
In-depth analysis of the survey has revealed that offering managers proper support can make a huge difference. Managers who felt their employer supported their mental health, or actively built their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems, were far more likely to feel confident in promoting staff wellbeing.
Manager confidence, in turn, is closely linked with whether employees feel able to disclose. Those staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone might be struggling were far more likely to say they would be able to talk about their mental health at work.
In a separate story today, research by the CBI found that two in three (63 per cent) of businesses saw workplace health and wellbeing as an important issue, but most find it difficult to take practical actions because they are unclear about what works. Employers are taking mental health and wellbeing increasingly seriously, but need the resources and support to help them do it.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“We are really proud to be involved in this piece of work, which offers a one-stop shop for anyone looking to improve mental wellbeing in their workplace and support staff with mental health problems. We know that employers want to do more and are starting to see mental health as a priority, but often don’t know where to start. The new online Mental Health at Work gateway will change that.
“Over the last few years employers have begun to take staff wellbeing more seriously and we know that many are doing great work around mental health in the workplace. Now is the time for a step change in how we think about mental health at work. All employers need to make it a focus and support their staff.
“It’s clear from our research that when employers support their managers properly, it can make a big difference to the whole organisation. The gateway gives managers the tools they need.
“Even small changes to policy, approach and workplace culture can make a really big difference to the mental health of those around us. No matter the size of your workplace, and no matter where you work, Mental Health at Work can help you find what you need to start or continue your journey to better workplace wellbeing for everyone.”
High street retailer WHSmith has done a huge amount around workplace wellbeing after Alison Garbutt, the retailer’s Head of Strategic Projects, sought support for her colleagues following the suicide of a co-worker. She realised that she, and others around her, did not know how to approach conversations about mental health.
Alison Garbutt, Head of Strategic Projects at WHSmith, said:
“Losing a colleague to suicide understandably had an immense impact on a number of staff within our organisation. Nobody can ever be fully prepared to lose a friend and co-worker in this way, but this awful incident made us realise that there was a lot more we could do as an organisation to promote good staff wellbeing and support staff struggling with poor mental health for any reason – whether work-related or otherwise. For an employer of our size, with a large number of staff all over the UK, we decided the best approach for us was to work with colleagues in HR and other staff to provide mental health awareness training for managers and store managers.
“Employers shouldn’t wait for staff to begin struggling with their mental health before they take action - acting quickly can prevent employees’ mental health worsening. But, too often, not knowing where to start can prevent employers prioritising workplace wellbeing. That’s why the Mental Health at Work gateway is going to be such a valuable resource for employers of all sizes and sectors.”
António Horta-Osório, Group Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking Group, who will attend and speak at today’s event, said:
“The Mental Health at Work gateway is a hugely impressive undertaking, which we will be making substantial use of at Lloyds.
“Our experience shows us that, with the right culture of support, employees can experience poor mental health at times, or live with an ongoing mental health condition, and still succeed and thrive at work. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. As employers, we have a real opportunity to change the way we approach mental health, giving our people the support they need to thrive.”
Mental Health at Work can be found at mentalhealthatwork.org.uk. The 11 partners are Heads Together, CIPD, the Federation of Small Businesses, the City Mental Health Alliance, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, the Work and Health Unit, Public Health England, NCVO, The Work Foundation, Time to Change and the Institute of Directors.