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Mental Health At Work

Opening a conversation - or opening a can of worms ?

As we meet with organisations across a range of business sectors we’ve have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and debate that the topic of workplace mental health generates.  So often organisations want to do the right thing but aren’t quite sure where to start. They care about colleagues, but struggle to see how the demands and targets associated with day to day business life can allow time for consideration of individual mental health. 

Being able to work under pressure, is an accepted criteria for many jobs and we sometimes hear concern raised amongst HR and Senior Leaders that raising awareness around mental health will just result in a higher rate of sickness absence and calls for reduced workload and targets.

It’s an interesting point and one that we are eager to

Creating an open culture

Creating an open culture around mental health is a long
journey, it’s not something that everyone currently feels comfortable talking about, both personally and with others .  We are some way from achieving parity between the way we consider physical health and the way we view mental health within the workplace.  

If an organisation ran a workshop on physical first aid, it is highly unlikely that there would be rumblings that attendees might think it’s a licence to take time off with a heart attack.  Sounds preposterous – well maybe so, but the core of the analogy is valid.

The cost of silence around mental health

Despite increased media coverage and successful campaigning by organisations such as the Mental Health Foundation and MIND, the, latest Business in the Community, Mental Health at Work Report 2019, indicated that;

  • 56% of respondents would not feel comfortable talking about their mental health with their line manager


  • 2 in 5 respondents said that they had experienced poor mental health where work was a contributing factor in the last year

At Mental Health at Work we believe that everyone’s mental
health is on a continuum, sometimes we are well and thriving in work and home life or we are moving away from being at our best because of life events, that may or may not be work-related.  When we bring our whole selves to work, we also bring those additional life pressures with us. Without support, at some point we may move into issue or illness, at which
stage we are not be able to do what we could, should and want to do and at this stage we’ll  either be off work or be
contributing to workplace presenteeism, neither of which are productive or beneficial for an organisation. 

If we can talk openly at an early stage, to someone who
genuinely cares and knows how to listen and be signposted for support, then there is an opportunity for our journey across the mental health continuum to take a different path and we may return to wellness and productivity more quickly, possibly avoiding sickness absence.

The Stevenson Farmer Review for government into workplace
mental health in the UK in 2017 cited presenteeism as costing the UK economy between £17-£26 billion a year. That’s a significant price to pay for silence. 



The benefits of open conversations around mental health

It’s also a tangible representation of the fact that whether companies choose to focus on the mental health strand of their D&I strategy or not, the cost of poor mental health within the workplace is already present in the business.

Mental Health at Work believe that delivering learning
events around  workplace mental health is an important step in challenging some of the stigma and misconceptions that surround the topic.  We’d like employees and Managers to think differently about the subject, to be less fearful and to feel more confident in both noticing changes in the behaviour of team members and take opportunities to have open and genuine discussions about it. 

Talking and learning about mental health within the workplace won’t make things worse, it won’t create a problem that wasn’t there before.  It will however bring benefits to the individual, the company and its financial bottom line.

So put the tin opener away – like it or not the tin is already open

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