Three out of five (61%) employees have experienced mental health issues due to work or where work was a related factor, new report findings have revealed.
The Mental Health at Work 2018 Report, entitled Seizing the Momentum, written by Business in the Community, highlights the desperate need for greater support for workers.
In response, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is calling for greater controls in workplaces to prevent emotional harm and support colleagues before a response to crisis is needed.
IOSH has supported the report through its membership of the Council for Work and Health, which unites professional bodies on health and wellbeing issues.
Duncan Spencer, IOSH Head of Advice and Practice, said:
“Evidence continues to grow about the negative impacts of poor mental health at work. Employers are talking about this and becoming more aware of its business impact. Many are realising the business benefits of higher productivity and talent retention that a robustly implemented wellbeing strategy can bring.
“Poor mental wellbeing caused by stress, depression and anxiety, accounts for a very high proportion of sickness absences in the UK, despite legal and moral imperatives for employers to manage psychosocial risks in the workplace. While the provision of mental health first aiders and other interventions can help, these are not preventative controls., We should have systems in place to prevent emotional harm and support colleagues much earlier, so that they don’t get to the point where a response to crisis is needed. Our focus must be on prevention and not cure.
“IOSH, as the world’s leading professional body striving for a safer, healthier world of work, will continue to play its part in funding research and promoting ideas for effective management of wellness and mental health in the workplace.”
In 2016, IOSH supported the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey 2016, managed by YouGov on behalf of Business in the Community. This report revealed a detailed overview of the mental wellbeing of the UK workforce and provided a call for action for improvements to be made.
While the latest findings show positive improvements since 2016 – with more employees having the confidence to recognise signs of poor mental health and feeling that their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing – the new report suggests that the pace of change is too slow and that more work is needed to better support the wellbeing of employees.
Too many employees continue to suffer in silence at work, unable to fulfil their potential through a fear of prejudice and exclusion, the report concludes.
Insufficient managerial support within the workplace has also been highlighted, with 64% of managers saying they had to put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing at some point, only 45% of employees believing that their organisation does well in supporting those with mental health issues, and only 30% of line managers reporting they had received any mental health training.
Financial uncertainty with the rise of the gig economy, increases in self-employment and temporary or zero hours contracts, the prevalence of in-work poverty and the political and social uncertainties of Brexit all deepen the challenge of maintaining and improving employee mental health.
There is currently a lack of measurable evidence of what interventions are effective and no consensus yet regarding guidance on reasonable adjustments for mental health at work, which creates further challenges for employers to introduce meaningful changes.
The report recommends a ‘call for action’ for organisations to sign the Time to Change employers pledge, which IOSH signed-up to in 2012, in order to change the way people think and act about mental health issues and provide support to peers.
Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director for Business in the Community, said: “Business is at its best when people are at their best. A positive approach to mental health at work is a key determinant in becoming an employer of choice. When people want to work for you because they feel valued and supported, you can recruit and retain the best talent to create winning teams. Thriving at work is a winning formula for all.”
In 2016, IOSH invited MPs and new peers to its ‘Promoting Mental Health at Work’ event, where former IOSH president Dr Karen McDonnell highlighted how one in six workers in the UK suffer from mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, emphasising the importance of organisational support and the benefits of creating a ‘culture of care’ at work.
Last year, IOSH launched a report ahead of World Mental Health Day 2017 showing how more support is needed for employees returning to work after suffering from mental health problems.
Public Health England is planning a three-year mental health marketing programme called ‘Every Mind Matters’ which will launch next Spring, to raise awareness of the fact that looking after mental health is as important as physical health.