The importance of Mental Health in the workplace - The Mind Map
By Dean Temple

The importance of Mental Health in the workplace

Evidence shows that organisations who take care of their employees mental health are more successful.

Published 07/09/2021
What is the importance of Mental Health in the workplace?

When our Mental Health is good, we have a sense of wellbeing.

We can cope with whatever life gives us to handle.

But just as our physical health goes up and down our mental health does as well.

Awareness of possible mental health issues in the workplace, fosters inclusive, open and connected work environments where employees can fully be themselves.

The pandemic and the lockdowns generated a massive mix of emotions and physical symptoms.

For many, this long amount of time spent isolated has created depression, anxiety, stress, frustration, loneliness.

It has also made many underlying conditions worse, that were manageable before.

Roughly 6.5 million employees were furloughed.

Of course, as well as the strain on them, this has caused extra strain to be placed on those still working,

There are many workers picking up extra tasks and responsibilities (regularly at reduced salary levels.)

The need to sustain businesses for the short term is clear.

However it could be risking the mental wellbeing of those who remain at work. And this is where mental health first aid courses come in.

In normal circumstances, everybody has tough times when we feel down or stressed.

Usually, those feelings pass by themselves, but sometimes they can develop into anxiety or depression.

Some people have more complicated, long-term mental health conditions.

For example, an eating disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

All of these can affect our ability to work at a regularly high level.

As a manager or as a colleague it is important never to jump to conclusions about somebody’s mental health.

Diagnosis is not always a predictor of what an individual is experiencing.

Some diagnosed with bipolar or PPD for example lead fully-functioning lives.

Others with anxiety (and no diagnosis) are severely affected by their condition.

Workplace wellbeing means being mindful of the collective mental health of your workplace.

Making sure that everyone feels supported and included.

Then, when colleagues are having more difficult times they will be less drastically affected

This is because they will already be aware they are supported.

According to the mental health charity Mind, at any one time;

At least one in six workers experience common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Poor mental health costs UK employers between £33-42 billion a year.

If you are a private sector employer, the cost to you is around more than £1,100 per employee every single year.

Good mental health enables us to work at our full potential.

Business leaders are understanding more and more all the time about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

Research studies provide solid evidence to demonstrate that organisations who take care of their employees mental health are more successful!

In-fact addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by up to 12% (The University of Warwick.)

The Stevenson-Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers in 2017, reported that businesses that invest in mental health interventions report an average of £4.20 return for each pound spent!

If you are looking to increase mental health awareness in your workplace our MHFA courses could be perfectly suited to you.

We use only the top trainers and are fully accredited.

We also offer discounts dependent on numbers of staff. View our courses here 

What are the business benefits of raising Mental Health Awareness at work?

The impact of mental health awareness-raising initiatives in the workplace is already proving resoundingly positive – on an international level.

A seven-day absence from work which is the average, costs £8,000

300,000 people leave their jobs every year because of serious issues with their mental health .

Alongside the human cost is a cost to employers

Recruitment of a new team member costs an average £30,000!

It is not so much whether your business can afford a mental health strategy, but more that it cannot afford not to have one.

Mental health awareness for managers 

Four signs to watch out for

Ninety-one million working days a year are lost to mental health issues 

67% of workers say they feel too scared or embarrassed to admit taking time out to look after their mental health.

“It is crucial that businesses are open and transparent about mental health.

This approach must start at the very top.

Leaders and managers have to lead by example in approaching tough conversations with compassion and honesty.

Simple things like leaving the office on time, or taking a lunch break can send the right message to your staff about how to prioritise wellbeing.

Training on mental health awareness will enable staff to feel more confident.

It will also draw attention to the policies and resources that you have in place as support.

Common signs of colleagues who are struggling with their mental health include:

Physical symptoms, such as tiredness due to sleep deprivation or persistent headaches.
Making a lot of mistakes, or difficulty with decision-making.
More irritable or less interested in the job.
Increased absence or working longer hours.

You may also notice a colleague making reference to increased alcohol consumption or sleep deprivation

Without healthy and productive workers, companies without the resources to ride the fallout of COVID-19 are unlikely to survive.

Never has there been more need for organisations to champion mental health in the workplace.

One in five people struggle with mental illness

Two-thirds don’t get the treatment they need due to lack of support or neglect, stigma, cost, waiting lists, lack of knowledge, and lack of access to treatment

The World Health Organisation announced that mental health problems are our biggest challenge of the century, with depression as the leading cause of disability and premature death

Not to mention that COVID-19 has deeply impacted 79% of people’s lives more recently

45% say this is due to uncertainty around

personal and family health

  • job status
  • workload
  • social isolation
  • financial problems

In some professions (healthcare) anxiety has increased by over 60%

Due to the stress brought on by COVID-19, 50% of employees had already been experiencing symptoms of psychological distress, which, if left unacknowledged, will lead them to burnout, anxiety and depression.

Currently, many employees are still in survival mode,

This means they have not processed what has happened to them physically, mentally emotionally, socially.

This particularly applies to those working in essential services.

For temporarily furloughed employees returning to work, there will likely be frustration, confusion, and resentment due to the decisions that had to be made to safeguard the business.

Confidence may be lost, they may be more distrustful of their leaders.

It is essential to provide openness and transparency and to rebuild morale.

Companies would do well to look at initiatives around

  • policy creation
  • communication
  • training resources
  • early-intervention treatment

This can include creating policies around mental health, sharing resources to promote awareness; giving managers and HR  training to identify issues and handle them successfully; and, providing employees with self-help tools and programs.

Our MHFA programs can equip companies with the ability to do just this. Take a look here.

More than ever before, digital technology is playing a crucial role in the treatment of poor mental health

Investing in mental health initiatives for leaders and employees of a company can help in several ways.

It can educe stigma and it can create a positive working environment

There is still a stigma surrounding mental health.

By revealing issues, people fear to become isolated or even considered unfit for the job they are in.

Every employer has an essential role to play in supporting employees with education about mental health.

Creating an open dialogue is essential.

Providing resources that promote awareness and knowledge can help create an accessible relatable and positive workplace, one that encourages engagement and attracts the best talent.

Focus on Early Intervention/Prevention

We spend about 60% of our time at work, and that work can be filled with stressors –

Workload, deadlines, co-workers, management, job security, finances, and many more

Educating your staff about healthy ways to cope with stress makes sense.

Why not address any issues before they become debilitating and costly for your company?

Treat Issues to Reduce  their Impact

You may or may not know if an employee is already suffering from mental health symptoms

But, having those resources already in place for an employee can help them to get the support they need in a timely fashion.

This is where an HR manager’s role is critical

To find high-quality, evidence-based options to ensure success.

Mental Health First Aid training is certainly one of those options.

Offering discounted counselling can also help.

Here at The Mind Map we can offer counselling retainers or discounted counselling for your staff. See our counsellors here.

Providing a variety of ways for an employee to get treatment will help reduce the struggle of that employee and save any further consequences from impacting their work or the workplace.

How to Improve Productivity and Engagement?

When you are fit in body, you tend to be healthier. It’s the same with your mind.

Improving the mental health of your employees can improve thinking, decision-making, workflow, resilience and relationships at work.

All of these translate to increased productivity.

And your employees will thank you for playing a role in helping them to be their best selves, increasing loyalty and engagement.

Reduce Costs and Risk

Promoting mental health is also a very wise financial decision for businesses.

Investing in a mentally healthy workplace can have a drastic cost saving effect.

It can reduce absenteeism (employees  absent due to illness) and presenteeism (at work, but poorly, down or distracted)

It will also reduce disability claims and increase productivity.

It also helps you meet workplace health and safety guidelines to avoid any future legal issues.

Due to many companies needing to move their workforce to remote working, over 70% of employees are feeling burnt out, without the boundaries of workplace / hometime schedules.

Burnout is a major pathway to depression.

There’s no one size fits all approach to mental health. Each profession has its own unique stressors.

Without effective mental health procedures in place, you may even lose your best employees.

Also, as an employer you must minimise the risk of illness or injury to employees in the workplace.

This includes anything that can impact an employee’s mental health.

This duty is part of the;

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The Equality Act also requires employers to provide adequate adjustments for employees with long term disabilities.

Mental health conditions can fall under this definition.

In 2017, an independent review of mental health in the workplace was published in full by the UK government.

There are many risk factors for mental health that have been found present in the working environment in this report.

Most risks relate to interactions between different types of work, the company environment, the competencies of employees, and the support available to them.

For example, a person may have the skills to complete tasks, but they may have too few resources to do what is required

Risks to Metal Health Include

Poor health and safety policies;
Poor communication and management
lack of control over one’s work
Lack of support for employees
Rigid working hours
Unclear tasks or goals

Some jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others (e.g. first responders and helping professions)

This can have an impact on mental health or possibly lead to harmful use of substances.

Risk is increased in where there is a lack of team or social support.

Bullying and harassment are also commonly reported causes of work-related stress.

Bullying leads to psychological and physical problems.

The health consequences can have costs for employers in terms of lost productivity and increased staff turnover.

They can also have a negative impact on family and social interactions.

Creating a healthy workplace

An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of legislation, strategies and polices.

A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.

An report from 2014 suggests that any interventions should take a 3-pronged approach:

Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors.
Promote mental health by developing the strengths of employees.
Address mental health problems whatever the cause.

Building on this, a guide from the World Economic Forum highlights steps companies can take to create healthy workplaces, including:

Awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be utilised and moulded to promote better mental health.

Learning from companies who have taken action.

Being aware of what other companies who have taken action have done.

Understanding various opportunities and needs of individual employees

Developing better policies for workplace mental health.

Increasing awareness of sources of support.

For some employees, mental illness may be pre-existing.

Many deal with anxiety and depression in their daily lives for other external reasons.

It may affect how employees show up in their workspaces.

Poor mental health is not something that one can just “turn off” or “leave outside the office building.”

The work environment and job stressors can then compound pre-existing anxiety and/or depression.

While some people may begin employment with mental health challenges, others may develop these challenges throughout their careers.

Stressful, harsh, fast-paced, competitive, and even toxic environments do not produce good mental health at work.

Anxiety at work and struggling with other mental illnesses affect employees on an emotional level and negatively impact many work-related areas. Anxiety at work can lead to many problems. Ultimately it may lead to loss of employees.

The effects of anxiety at work and other mental health challenges at work like depression are far-reaching in the workplace.

This is why many employers are starting to invest in Mental Health and implementing changes that foster mental wellness.

How are companies investing in Mental Health?

Changing company cultures.

One way a company might invest in the mental wellness of their employees is by creating a culture of compassion and authenticity. De-stigmatising Mental Health by leading by example – talking about issues openly and demonstrating to employees that they will not be punished for being open and honest about any struggles they might be having.

HR can take steps to  build employee resiliency.

Managers and supervisors must be mindful of and open to allowing employees to speak openly about mental health challenges.

Mental wellness days – This is an innovative idea that some of the biggest companies have launched to great success,

They have started allowing employees to take paid or unpaid mental health days from work.

For these to be most effective, it’s important that employees feel empowered to use them before they begin to feel mentally unwell.

Encouraging employees to take a step back can be helpful, if you spot the signs of possible mental distress. Communicating your care and support and assuring the employee that they are not ‘in trouble’ in any way is important.

These days are meant to be proactive, allowing employees to have a break and enjoy rest and self-care.

Providing good mental health coverage in insurance policies is a way to empower employees in taking their mental health into their own hands.

This can allow people to proactively take care of their mental health before it gets worse.

Some companies may even have in-house counsellors that their employees have consistent access to.

If this is something you would like for your organisation, we can help with that here at The Mind Map.

Email to discuss your requirements

Investing in workplace wellness does not simply benefit employees but also employers too.

Having a healthy workforce that shows up to work in a positive and strong frame of mind, benefits everybody!

The effect on your business will be obvious to see.

The question seems to be not CAN you afford to invest in workplace mental health, but how can you afford NOT to?

As an individual, whether you are struggling with depression, anxiety or anything else at all in your daily life

Or, if you are concerned about someone at work, there are many different resources that are out there to help you.

At The Mind Map we offer signposting to free services, journal articles, interviews and other information that can support you to learn more about your mental health needs.

We offer discounted MHFA training to individuals and businesses alike and we also supply counsellors, again both to individuals and to companies.

Take a look at the different resources we have here