Fortunately in wider society we are now more able than ever to talk about mental health, but in the workplace the pace of change is frustratingly slow and there is still a lack of openness, which is preventing employees seeking the support that is required, before this becomes an issue or crisis which might require absence from the workplace. The latest survey produced by BITC on workplace mental health indicated that 46% of employees were not comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace and 11% who did disclose, subsequently faced disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal.
Royals, celebrities and high profile executives have all encouraged us to be more open about our mental health, following their examples and start a conversation. But whilst this sounds simple, in the workplace this isn’t so easy; we feel ill-equipped and are fearful about what our manager or colleague might say. At Mental Health at Work we hear from organisations across a range of industries and the question that we are frequently asked is ‘How?’. The answer for most is to invest in a programme of training, increasing literacy around mental health and equipping manager with the skills and confidence to manage it.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. We encourage organisations to set objectives around mental health and then develop a plan over the coming months and years, which builds understanding and action through awareness and training activities until this becomes a ‘business as usual’ activity throughout the employee lifecycle.
Return on investment is never easy to measure for leadership and management initiatives, but we do see organisations tracking the impact on Employee Assistance Programme usage, which by the way often goes up after a training initiative as more people seek support at the right time, and long term sickness absence due to mental health. Forward thinking organisations are starting to measure attitudinal and behavioural change, by using pre and post surveys, along with annual employee satisfaction surveys, which track the comfort level and frequency of conversations and support around mental health.
Ultimately though, as an employer and colleague you have a duty of care towards those with whom you work and investing in a robust programme around mental health is just a basic human decency; an approach which in itself will deliver the results to ensure your business thrives.