Mental health issues are not uncommon in the workplace; in fact, some studies suggest that our constant connectivity is making employees more stressed than ever before. But unfortunately, as a recent article on the HR Magazine website highlights, workplaces are still failing to support employees with mental health problems.
The article refers to a report called Mental Health at Work, conducted by Business in the Community (BITC). It found that more than three-quarters (77%) of the workers questioned had experienced poor mental health symptoms at some stage on their lives. Not only that, a troubling 62% said that work had been a contributing factor.
Communication seems to be a major obstacle for both employees and their bosses. Just 11% of respondents had discussed their recent symptoms with their line manager, and only one in four (25%) felt they could talk to a colleague, line manager or member of the HR team.
When it came to managers, the large majority (75%) recognised that staff wellbeing was their responsibility; but some 40% did not feel confident dealing with symptoms of mental health problems, such as depression, mood swings and panic attacks.
The main reason for other colleagues not knowing how to deal with a colleague they were concerned about, was the fear of interfering or not knowing what to do, cited by 86% of those questioned.
Commenting on the findings, Louis Aston – the BITC’s wellbeing director – stressed the importance of taking mental health in the workplace more seriously. She advises employers to approach it in the same way as physical health; for example, taking measures to prevent problems starting and escalating, and ensuring employees have adequate support when something does go wrong.
“Employees must feel that the workplace is supportive of, rather than detrimental to, their mental health,” she added.
Meanwhile, Helen Tucker – Procter and Gamble’s HR director, Northern Europe – highlighted the impact that company culture can have on people’s willingness to talk about their problems.
“It’s not a very British thing to talk about mental health openly,” she explained, but “if you show you’re willing to talk about it you’re helping to normalise it.”
BITC has created a Talk, Train and Take Action system for employers to follow. It means:
Talk – Take the ‘Time to Change’ employer’s pledge and break the culture of silence.
Train – Investing in basic mental health awareness for all employees, and first aid training in mental health for line managers.
Take action – Ask all staff about their experiences to identify how your organisation can step in.
Radiology, Uppsala University Hospital.–