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Taking Care of Business: Good Mental Health at Work and the Costs of Getting it Wrong


This article has been submitted by Darwin Gray

According to the mental health charity Mind, one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, at any one time. For many the workplace is the epicentre of the problem, and with an estimated 300,000 jobs lost each year as a result of mental illness, it is clear that this is a crisis that needs addressing.

Promoting good mental health at work

The benefits of promoting good mental health at work should go without saying: staff who have good mental health are likely to be more productive, motivated and have higher attendance levels. A recent CIPD study found a direct link between poor mental health and a lack of productivity, with 80% of sufferers saying they had difficulty concentrating and 62% of sufferers saying they took longer to complete tasks. However, the issue of mental health continues to be an afterthought for many employers – which leaves them struggling to react to problem situations that arise.

The costs of getting it wrong

As for the costs of getting it wrong, this should be obvious from an employee’s perspective: being badly managed at work can lead to devastating consequences for an employee’s mental health, financial situation and personal life.

However, a failure to act can be costly for employers as well. The same CIPD study found that 21% of sufferers had resorted to calling in sick to avoid work because of issues relating to stress, and that 14% had resigned. This means that organisations are losing members of staff who are held back from potential success by mental health problems.

Avoiding discrimination

If an employee has an illness which amounts to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on ability to carry out day-to-day activities) then the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments for them and to protect them from discrimination.

So, what changes can employers make?

  1. Communicate with your staff, and encourage them to speak to you if they are facing any particular problems at work which may be affecting their ability to cope with work.
  2. Train your managers to identify and support employees who may be suffering from a mental health issue, including stress, anxiety and depression.
  3. Consult medical professionals to ensure you are properly informed about what the problem is and how it may affect or be affected by the employee’s job.
  4. Make reasonable adjustments for employees with mental illness to help them remain in work. In cases where such illness may be long-running and severe enough to amount to a disability, there is a legal obligation on you to do so.
  5. Review the situation regularly: mental health issues can recur even if they seem to have disappeared, so it is important not to let things slide.

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Book your place at this Mental Health at Work Conference on 10 July in Aberystwyth. The one-day conference is for both individuals as well as businesses and organisations looking to tackle, manage, or improve mental health in the workplace.

All profits from the conference will be donated to local mental health charities Mind Aberystwyth and The DPJ Foundation.

The conference will feature expert speakers from across Wales and the rest of the UK, who will be covering various aspects of mental health including mindful employment, mental health strategy, financial well-being and mental health first aid. There will be opportunities to attend taster sophrology sessions as well as employment law and HR advice clinics.

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