10 months ago by Meg Fenner Jamieson

Well-being in the Workplace


On Wednesday 10th October we celebrated World Mental Health Day, recognised around the world each year with the aim to raise awareness of mental health topics and supporting anyone and everyone affected.

The Government's Department of Health claims that one in every four UK citizens will experience an episode of ill mental health each year. Hardly surprising when most of us, if asked, would admit to having times when life just feels ‘a bit too much’. These instances are often exacerbated by work, whether it’s a project deadline, a stressful commute or even a colleague.

Regardless of whether you work with 10 people or 100 people, paying attention to your own mental health, and that of those around you, has never been more important. 

A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study emphasised the effect that poor mental health can have on UK businesses. The study found that:

37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues,

57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks,

80% find it difficult to concentrate,

62% take longer to do tasks,

50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.

And research provided by mind.org reported:

21% of employees admitted to taking a sick day because of the way stress was affecting them at work

14% of employees agreed that they had resigned due to stress

And 42% admitted they had considered resigning 

30% of employees disagreed with the statement “I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed”.

It was also found that, for the first time, stress is a leading cause of long-term absence in both manual and non-manual workers.

More so, the value added to the economy by individuals at work who have or have had mental health issues is estimated to be as high as £225 billion per year. This represents a whopping 12.1% of the UK's total GDP.

Whether work is what’s causing the health issue or simply what’s aggravating it, employers legally have a responsibility to help their employees when required. Some employees may even have pre-existing mental conditions when recruited or may develop one during their time at an organisation, so when a risk is identified, steps MUST be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably possible.

It is crucially important that both employers and employees take steps to encourage positive mental health and support those that may be suffering.

Starting a conversation doesn’t have to be difficult…

It's crucial that we begin addressing mental health at work for those with pre-existing issues, for those who could be at risk, and for the general improvement of the workforce as a whole. A toxic work environment can be destructive to our mental health.

We believe in workplaces where every person can thrive. We also believe in the role of employers and employees creating thriving communities that promote discussions around mental health, and support those who may be in need.

Positive mental health at work and positive management harmonise with one another, and there is clear evidence that workplaces with strong levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.

It’s about recognising the problem and doing more.

Ill mental health can show itself in several different ways and can vary from being easy to hide, to symptoms that are difficult to ignore.

Try having a quiet discussion, or friendly check-in with a colleague/employee if you see them experiencing any of the below symptoms, though this is by no means a complete list:

Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate,

Excessive worries, nervousness or feelings of indecisiveness,

Extreme feelings of guilt; apologising when there is no need to,

Withdrawal from friends and social activities,

Significate tiredness or low energy,

Excessive anger, hostility or violence,

Experiencing high levels of anxiety, or in extreme cases, panic attacks.

Although we can write lists of the general symptoms and signs, ill mental health can cover a wide range of disorders and can be difficult to clearly diagnose, unlike physical illnesses. The shared characteristic is that it will change the affected person’s personality, thought processes and social interactions.

56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing, but don’t think they have the right training or guidance.

A strong and healthy workplace is one where both employers and employees contribute to improving their working environment by educating those around them and promoting and protecting the health and well-being of everyone involved.

Mental health interventions aren’t as scary as they sound and should be regularly performed with employees – they can be as simple as just a quick check-in but could mean the world to a silently-suffering staff member. Your workplace well-being plan should go over prevention, early diagnosis and symptoms, and also provide support to those who need it.

The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly diminishing, and it will only improve as businesses begin to do more and employers begin to recognise the power a simple conversation can have. The more open we begin to be with one another, the more we can look towards a positive future.