Addressing mental health should be part of every organisation’s culture

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Obviously this subject is a hot topic at the moment. You only need a swift skim of the papers, perfunctory peek of the internet or to keep half an ear on the radio for a few minutes, before you’re presented with a story about mental health, and how the attitude around it needs to change.

But while it might seem like the latest issue to be under the spotlight, it’s not. Mental ill-health was the third highest reason for work absences among non-manual employees in 2015, according to the CIPD Absence Management Survey. And as far back as 2007, the Sainsbury Centre for ill Health estimated the total cost to the UK taxpayer of mental ill health as £25.9bn a year, so it’s a problem that’s faced organisations for a good while.

The figures are pretty stark, and you can see why addressing mental health should be part of every organisation’s culture. It’s something that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. People sometimes suffer in silence before being forced to take time off. And many managers and HR professionals fail to notice the tell-tale signs that someone’s starting to suffer from mental ill-health.

Spotting problems and nipping them in the bud could save your organisation a hefty sum. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) believes this sum could be around £8bn across the UK workforce. NICE also says one of the best ways to stop mental ill-health and stress becoming a major issue in organisations is to introduce work wellbeing programmes.

The figures back this up. In fact, looking after your employees’ mental wellbeing could improve productivity from around 67.1% to 87.4%. Even small changes can yield big results – making slight adjustments to just 15% of an organisation’s workforce of 34,000 could see a productivity jump of £6.1m. Do the same for 15% of the whole of the UK working population and the increase is £5.6bn.

If you can’t picture such a mind-blowing sum of money, it’s enough to pay for 243,000 nurses.

Some of the ways you can help your employees’ wellness is to develop things like work-life balance initiatives, promote a healthy environment and encourage personal development. Creating a culture where staff are resilient, don’t have divided loyalties and are able to leave the office on time will build high levels of physical and mental wellbeing. Absence levels will reduce, engagement will get better and overall productivity will increase.

It’s great that the ‘hidden injustice’ and ‘stigma’ of mental ill-healthy is right up there in the county’s priorities. It needs to be. Tackling this stigma and changing the negative attitudes around mental ill-health is as important as tackling the illness and underlying reasons behind it. People need to feel they can talk about their mental wellbeing without fear of being judged and looked upon unfavourably in the workplace.

There are lots of books written by celebrities and experts on this difficult subject. If you’ve never experienced mental health problems and are unsure how it affects people, or how to deal with it, getting a copy of one or more of these publications could be a great place to start.

Addressing this growing problem by making sure your people are in good physical and mental shape will mean they’re on top of their game ready to always do what they do best.