12/05/2022

Mental health should be a year-round commitment

Caroline Bradshaw
Caroline Bradshaw

Policy Adviser for Work Related Stress and Mental Health Team, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

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 (Mind Mind Mind provides advice and support on mental health, and campaigns to improve understanding, across England and Wales. View organisation). 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

A man works at multiple monitors

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 to assess the potential risk​Stress risk assessment Web page Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing, and acting on, a risk assessment. This is an easy-to-use template you can use, along with examples from three small to medium-sized businesses.Free By: Health and Safety Executive View resource from 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 of workplace stress​Workforce stress and the supportive organisation PDF The NHS National Workforce Skills Development Unit has created this framework aimed at helping health and social care employers improve the mental wellbeing of their employees.Free By: National Workforce Skills Development Unit View resource by 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.

Staff chat in the staff room.

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 removing the stigma​Tools for raising awareness and tackling stigma Web page Line managers and supervisors are the frontline of wellbeing management. This resource shows managers in the railway industry where to find information to promote awareness of mental health in the workplace.FreeSign up for free to access By: RSSB View resource – 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.

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