Mental Health at Work – an assessment of UK workplaces

Mental Health at Work

Mental Health of UK workplaces

Poor mental health affects nearly half of all UK employees, according to a survey of 44,000 people carried out by the mental health charity Mind.

Only half of those who had experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood had talked to their employer about it and most were forced to leave their jobs as a result of the problems compounding by not sharing their issues. Fear, shame and job insecurity are some of the reasons people may choose to hide their worries.

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Most people will still be too sacred or ashamed to share their mental health problems with their employer, even in this more enlightened and encouraging age: that’s because most employers still don’t have a proper answer to the problem, and so most will react badly and make their employee’s problems worse.

Simply put, employees will be too scared to tell their employer of their problems if they feel that they will be publicly or privately shamed and blamed, or worse still fired, for their actions in speaking out.

According to a report released last year, work-related stress anxiety or depression now accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in Great Britain.

In total, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 as a result of the condition, up from 12.5 million the year before. This means that 57.3 per cent of the 26.8 million work days lost to ill health last year were due to mental health issues, according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This increase has been partially driven by a rise in the number of new or long-standing cases, with 595,000 workers reporting that they currently suffer from the condition up from 526,000 in 2016/17. It may be seen as a sign of encouragement that more people are reporting the issue, however exactly how UK companies intend to tackle this is still an issue to be resolved.

This is such a large number of employee days lost due to mental health problems, that it is surely time for employers nationwide to focus in on this as the number one problem affecting employee productivity in the country.

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If we want to look more deeply at the statistics around long term mental health issues at work, we should look at the following for more details on how we might prevent these lost business days in the future .

  • Better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.
  • Introducing a workplace intervention in the form of an employee screening and care management for those living with (or at risk of) depression was estimated to cost £30.90 per employee for assessment, and a further £240.00 for the use of CBT to manage the problem, in 2009. According to an economic model, in a company of 500 employees where two thirds are offered and accept the treatment, an investment of £20,676 will result in a net profit of approximately £83,278 over a two year period.
  • Promoting wellbeing at work through personalised information and advice, a risk-assessment questionnaire, seminars, workshops and web-based materials will cost approximately £80 per employee per year. For a company with 500 employees, where all employees undergo the intervention, it is estimated that an initial investment of £40,000 will result in a net return of £347,722 in savings, mainly due to reduced presenteeism (lost productivity that occurs due to an employee working while ill) and absenteeism (missing work due to ill health).

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So it seems evident that focused and coordinated leadership is needed to provide UK businesses a framework on which to base their management of mental health issues in the workplace, and we’re left wondering when the Government will take the lead on an issue that is costing the UK economy billions of pounds per annum in lost revenue.

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