Most workers turn up in the morning, switch on a computer, turn on lab equipment or put on hi-vis jackets and get cracking on what our employer has outlined as our jobs. At the end of the month we are paid, we take our vacation and share cakes on birthdays. This seems a straight trade between employer and employee.
But what happens when things start to go wrong? More enlightened employers are starting to realise that looking after an employee’s wellbeing and nurturing their mental health has one great benefit: it helps staff to turn up each day and keep their businesses working.
Maudsley Learning at Work’s most recent mental health training taster workshop on 16 September – Employer’s Duty of Care and Employee Mental Health – invited representatives from across industry to consider how their reputation as an employer and can affect not only how they keep the wheels on the bus going round, but even hire employees in the first place.
Keith Leslie is a partner at Deloitte and Chair of the Mental Health Foundation said, “The size of the problem is just enormous.”
“There are 70 million workdays lost in the UK due to mental ill health. The cost to the country is estimated at £70 to £100 billion per annum which is 4.5 percent of GDP. To benchmark that, it is equivalent to half the nations debt.”
He said that as result, many more organisations are starting to become interested in mental wellbeing, including the Treasury and insurance companies, which are paying out on long-term sickness payments. “There is nothing better than a financial incentive to make employers focus on an issue.”
Keith went on to explain that what is now acceptable in the workplace has changed significantly in the last ten years. City jobs and what stress it puts on employees has changed dramatically. “We looked at what it costs us in terms of lack of mental wellbeing in employees and it is stupendous not just in terms of people leaving and the loss of business.”
Another change affects new mothers. Again, “Ten years ago, your chances as a returning mother were pretty random and would depend on your law partner to see if you could get a good deal and a successful entry back. That is not the case now.”
He added that a better vision on maternity, broader inclusion in the workplace and paying attention to mental wellbeing all go hand in hand. “It is no longer viewed as acceptable to do nothing.”
Change can be made by catalysts, and Keith spoke of a law partner who spoke openly when he returned from a bout of depression. He also noted that discussion of mental wellness in his office had gone up and that mental health champions can be a great way to diffuse access to help in an organisation.
So what effects can a poor duty of care to employers have on a business, what if you don’t do anything? Keith concluded that there were three main benefits to employers.
“Rising insurances and other costs such as court costs are rising. There are the opportunity costs of key people going offline rather than sustaining their contributions.
“And of course, there is the reputational issue. Word gets around very quickly if you aren’t a great recruiter. We tend to employ to attract bright people who tend do their research, so we have a clear reputational issue to look after.”
Maudsley Learning at Work can help line managers to detect changes early, and provide them with the language and confidence to start the conversation in the workplace to destigmatise the topic of mental wellness.
To find out more about line management training contact the Maudsley Learning at Work team.