Mental health should be a year-round commitment
Policy Adviser for Work Related Stress and Mental Health Team, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Caroline is a policy professional working on HSE’s Work Related Stress and Mental Health team which develops advice, guidance and tools to help employers understand their legal duties, and understand the impact of work-related stress on workers.
Caroline is involved in the Working Minds campaign, targeted at smaller employers to help them understand how they can work with their teams to prevent problems developing. They aim to reach out and have conversations about stress and mental health, make such conversations routine, and promote the HSE mission to prevent death, injury and ill-health in Great Britain’s workplaces.
As Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 draws to a close, Caroline explains the importance of ensuring mental health stays a priority for your organisation year-round.
Work can be mentally demanding at times and lots of us have experienced stressful periods at work, but when it’s happening frequently or over a long period of time, it can really start to impact our physical and mental health.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so a perfect time for conversations which raise the profile of good mental health and the impact stress can have on it. But the real difference is made when we make prevention a routine part of everyday life. Not just for one week – one month – but all year round.
Please know you’re not alone
The pandemic transformed many of our roles both at home and work. Out of control workloads, difficulty coping with or adapting to the demands of the job, unsupportive managers and strained relationships are common reasons for work related stress.
If this sounds alarmingly familiar, please know you’re not alone.
In the UK, 822,000 workers reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2020/21, and two in five employees reported that their mental health had worsened during the pandemic (). A recent Deloitte report estimates that the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019 – adding up to around £53-56 billion between 2020-21
There has never been a more important time, or a bigger opportunity, to drive culture change across Britain’s workplaces to manage work-related stress and protect the mental health of workers.
So – what can be done? How can we make looking after our mental health just as routine as managing safety at work?
Well, the first thing for businesses to be aware of is that the law requires them tofrom work related stress and to take steps to tackle it where it’s identified – but we know that many employers aren’t aware of their legal duties.
Tackle the causes of workplace stress by looking out for colleagues
Managers and individuals should take steps to identify and tackle the causes ofby looking out for colleagues who might be struggling, encouraging them to seek help, having discussions about mental health and promoting regular open and honest conversations.
With the support of campaign partners such as Mind and our network of campaign champions, HSE’s Working Minds campaign provides specific advice and tools to help workers and managers to promote and encourage good mental health, and support each other.
It’s based on five simple steps; reach out and have the conversations, recognise the signs of stress, respond to any risks identified, reflect on what’s happened and make it routine.
Key to the campaign is– encouraging people to talk about issues; normalising these conversations so that asking how people are feeling and coping becomes a routine part of everyday working life. This is how we can recognise and respond to issues early, before they escalate.
If you’re struggling to get conversations started, HSE’s Talking Toolkit can help to kick-start simple, practical conversations with workers. The conversations are based around six factors: Demands, Control, Support, Relationships, Role and Change – each of these can lead to stress if not managed properly. The toolkit contains easy to use templates, designed to get managers and employees talking about work related stress to identify any issues and tackle them. There’s a risk assessment template too.
We all have a responsibility to look after our own mental health
Building a supportive workplace, where workers look out for each other and relationships are positive, can help reduce – even prevent – stress developing. It’s not all down to employers – we all have a responsibility to look after our own mental health, in and out of work.
If you’re passionate about making positive changes to workplace culture and want to support us to spread the message about how to prevent work-related stress and promote good mental health, we’d love you to join us and become a Working Minds campaign champion.