Guest Blog by Health Assured CEO and wellbeing expert David Price
Here at Health Assured we welcome the new report commissioned by the Prime Minister Theresa May that has found that long-term mental health conditions cause up to 300,000 people a year to leave their job. The report found that overall cost to employers of poor mental health at work is calculated as between £33 billion and £42 billion.
One of the big positives from the ‘Thriving at Work’ report is that it seeks to change the culture around mental health to create a more open, understanding and aware society. They believe that employers will have the greatest impact and provide the most support to create this change, with the report setting out a ten-year vision for employers. This vision will culminate in the number of people having to leave work because of mental health reducing to be in line with the numbers who leave because of their physical health.
Key things I would encourage businesses to take from the report is a number of proposals and “mental health core standards” which can be put in place quickly across all businesses. These include: producing, implementing and communicating a mental health at work plan; developing mental health awareness among staff; encouraging open conversations about mental health and available support; providing good working conditions, including development opportunities; promoting effective people management; and monitoring mental health and wellbeing.
There are also “enhanced” standards which, if implemented, will set companies apart as being those who wish to lead the way on improving their mental health culture. The enhanced standards include increasing transparency, demonstrating accountability and improving disclosure.
These core standards are designed to be best practice standards that are easily implemented to create a positive and supportive mental health culture. Small businesses should approach these standards in a positive manner and assess how they can be implemented within their business, depending on factors such as resources, staff and the current culture. Many employers have started taking steps to improve their awareness and support of mental health and these standards can build on any foundations already in place.
A mental health at work plan may be incorporated into a company’s existing mental health policy or created separately. The plan should be individual to each business and can outline the support, services and ways of addressing issues that are currently carried out. If a workplace counselling or support benefit is offered, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, the plan can contain details on what services are available and how staff access these. Signposting to external support, such as local counselling groups, may also encourage employees to seek support.
One of the main areas of the report and the core standards is to encourage awareness, understanding and communication around mental health. An easy way to encourage this within the workplace is to train on mental health, both the positive and negative aspects, and train staff on how to spot negative mental health within themselves and others. Setting in place activities such as wellness days, open mornings, wellbeing and fitness classes, and recognising days such as World Mental Health Day will all go towards creating the right culture. However small, a step in the right direction will encourage understanding and promote the support, and encouragement, of the employer.