The role of the workplace in mental health
CEO, City Mental Health Alliance
Like catching a cold, poor mental health and illness can happen to any one of us, at any time.
Like catching a cold, poor mental health and illness can happen to any one of us, at any time. And it happens to so many of us, as millions of people in the UK are currently living with mental ill health. This can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, and their relationships with their family and friends. Meanwhile the impact of this on business productivity is huge, leading to 91 million working days lost each year and costing employers £34.9 billion each year.
When we talk about mental health – the causes, how to prevent it, interventions and recovery – it is impossible, in my view, to not involve the workplace in the conversation. I believe that the workplace can provide a supportive space that encourages ongoing positive mental health and even facilitates recovery. From my personal experience, when I was recovering from post-natal depression, work actually played a significant role in my recovery. With the right support from my employer, I started to feel more confident and it reminded me that I am more than my depression. It gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of self.
If employers get it right, workplaces can help employees to thrive at their jobs and, ultimately, in their wider lives.
If employers get it right, workplaces can help employees to thrive at their jobs and, ultimately, in their wider lives. On the other hand, workplaces which don’t get it right – where there is lack of mental health literacy or not enough attention paid to preventative measures – risk lower productivity, lost talent and an unwelcome culture.
In recent years, it has been encouraging to see how more UK’s employers are thinking more about how they can support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. However, I have also seen that taking action on mental health in the workplace is easier said than done. When it comes to physical health issues, such as how to support the muscular skeletal health of employees or even physical first aid, there is an abundance of advice available on how to implement tried and tested policies. Whereas, practical guidance and advice on creating a stigma-free, mentally healthy workplace, is harder to find. For this reason, I very much welcome the launch of Mental Health at Work, by Heads Together and Mind. It will be an incredibly valuable resource for UK employers.
At the City Mental Health Alliance (CMHA), we are absolutely committed to providing practical tools and guides for our member organisations and beyond. The CMHA is a collaborative venture founded by City businesses, with a vision of helping people at all levels in the City – from law firms, to banks, to accountancy firms to regulatory bodies – talk about mental health without fear of stigma. We also want mental health to be recognised as a boardroom issue. To this end, earlier this summer, the CMHA turned the recommendations from last year’s Government-backed into a unique framework of recommended practical actions or interventions for large employers. Our members, including BNY Mellon, Goldman Sachs, PWC and Legal & General, pooled their knowledge and experience to create this toolkit. with Mental Health At Work so that it is available to all employers.
The vision of having a mentally healthy workplace, where there is zero tolerance of any mental health stigma, is within our grasp.
The vision of having a mentally healthy workplace, where there is zero tolerance of any mental health stigma, is within our grasp. If organisations can share good practice between them, access good guidance and tackle the challenges ahead with the same determination as we’ve seen in the last few years, we will create a future where people look out for one another, where businesses and individuals flourish.