Organisations of all sizes should make staff wellbeing a corporate priority and introduce workplace mental health policies that promote wellbeing for all staff, tackle work-related mental health problems and support staff who are experiencing mental distress.
According to mental health charity Mind’s Taking care of business campaign, which surveyed over 2,000 employees, staff fear for their job security when admitting they feel stressed or depressed in the workplace. One in five believe that mentioning stress levels would put them first in line for redundancy.
The research found that employees’ fear were not unfounded as 22% of those who had disclosed a mental health problem in a previous job said they had been fired or forced to quit.
Mind found that 41% of employees are currently stressed or very stressed in their jobs, which makes it more stressful than money worries, marriage and relationships or health issues.
Two in three had been put under more pressure by management since the downturn and a third feel stressed by a reduction to budgets in their workplace.
Almost half (48%) are scared to take time off sick and 28% are stressed by the threat of redundancy; this rises to 41% in the public sector.
Despite the huge increases in pressure due to budget cuts and job losses, staff are reluctant to speak up for fear they will be perceived as weak or less capable than colleagues, and shortlisted for job cuts.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “The negativity that persists around stress and mental health problems is unacceptable in a modern workforce.
“Pressure and stress may be part of our working lives, but failing to recognise that everyone has a limit is a mistake that costs businesses billions of pounds a year.
“Stigma is so great employees worry that even mentioning stress will lose them their jobs. Mental health problems exist in every workforce, but at the moment it exists as a costly and unaddressed elephant in the room.
“Making the workplace more mentally healthy does not need to cost the earth. Simple, practical changes can have big results such as making sure staff take proper breaks or giving them the chance to talk about work pressures.
“Some businesses are already seeing this approach pay off, reducing sickness absence, cutting costs and being rewarded with a productive and committed workforce. It is time for all employers to change their attitudes towards mental health problems at work.”
Eugene Farrell, psychological support expert at Axa PPP Healthcare, said: “Employers do not create a positive workplace culture just by saying so. They have to nurture it by treating staff well, promoting their health and wellbeing, and by being there to support them when things get them down.
“Helping staff to deal with the pressures in their lives is one of the best investments an employer can make.”
Debbie Meech, people director at Cable and Wireless Worldwide, added: “The issue of stress in the workplace highlighted by Mind’s research is something that should concern any employer and be a key consideration when it comes to allocating resources to support wellbeing in the workplace.
“The recession has been hard on employees and no organisation can say they are stress-free.
“Employers need to closely monitor any signs of plummeting wellbeing like an increased absence level or increases in certain types of illness, serious incidents and injuries, an increased usage of an assistance line and occupational health or changes in engagement scores.
“There are plenty of actions that any organisation can take to help its employees. Health awareness sessions on various topics, onsite nurses for a day, childcare, private medical insurance (PMI) or an assistance line are just some of the available solutions.
“At Cable and Wireless Worldwide, we have decided to take a positive approach towards the wellbeing of our staff and have recently launched a programme focusing on three key areas: healthy mind, healthy body and healthy lifestyle.
“We recognise that we are at the beginning of this journey, but it is an important issue which can have dramatic consequences as Mind research has highlighted.”
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