Mental Health at Work
On the 10th October this year, World Mental Health Day celebrated its 30th birthday. So in this edition we focus on a very important subject which appears to be increasing in relevance for everyone in the workplace.
In introducing the topic, I think we can all agree that a good working environment is essential for our mental health and conversely, a poor working environment – including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity – poses a risk.
Stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and costs over £5 billion a year in Great Britain.
Work can protect mental health
People at work have the right to a safe and healthy work environment which supports good mental health by providing a livelihood and a sense of confidence, purpose and achievement.
For people with mental health conditions, work can contribute to recovery and inclusion, improve confidence and social functioning. Safe and healthy working environments are not only a fundamental right but are also more likely to minimise tension and conflicts at work and improve staff retention, work performance and productivity.
Risks to mental health at work
At work, risks to mental health, also called psychosocial risks, may be related to job content or work schedules, specific characteristics of the workplace or opportunities for career development among other things. Under-use of skills or being under-skilled for work and excessive workloads or work pace, understaffing and long, unsocial or inflexible hours, can also be included.
Furthermore, economic recession which we are currently facing elicit risks such as job loss, financial instability, reduced employment opportunities or increased unemployment. Work can also be a setting which amplifies wider issues that negatively affect mental health, including discrimination and inequality based on factors such as, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, social origin, migrant status, religion or age.
What can we do?
We can protect and promote mental health at work which is about strengthening the capabilities within organisations to recognise and act on mental health conditions at work, particularly for persons responsible for the supervision of others, such as team leaders and managers. Strategies can include:
- manager training in the area of mental health;
- training for workers in mental health literacy and awareness; and
- interventions for individuals.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published advice for managers on mental ill health conditions which focusses on:
- talking at an early stage;
- using routine management tools to identify and tackle problems or needs;
- supporting an employee who is tearful and upset;
- managing a person with an ongoing illness;
- coping strategies;
- advance statements; and
- guidance and support.
In addition, the HSE has also published a step-by-step workbook entitled ‘Tackling Work Related Stress Using The Management Standards Approach’ which is available on the HSE website.
At William Martin, we have worked hard to increase support options for employees who may be experiencing mental health challenges. In addition, we have trained colleagues in mental health first aid and provided further training for managers to ensure we remain aware of the potential for anyone in the business at one time or another to require increased support and understanding.
By Phil Jones (Managing Director, William Martin)
Further information is available on the HSE website.
At William Martin we have a nationwide team of experts who offer a comprehensive range of health and safety compliance services. As part of the wider Marlowe Group, William Martin also has access to a wider range of complementary services.
For all enquiries, please contact us or call our team on 0203 819 8829.
You can download this and all other articles from this quarters Connect Update here.