Mental Health In the Workplace: Why Is It Important?

Continuing her series of articles about mental health and hearing voices, Jane Fisher discusses the importance of mental health in the workplace

A recent report published by Perkbox, an organisation dedicated to helping companies create happier workplaces, confirmed Cardiff as being the most stressed city in the UK. The 2017 report showed that around 70% of Cardiff employees reported high levels of work stress and anxiety, superseding Wolverhampton (64%) and London (59%). ‘Increased job growth in the city has resulted in more people commuting in from other counties, which may be a reason for the increase in stress,’ says Saurav Chopra, CEO and co-founder of Perkbox. In addition, the usual stresses of job insecurity and feelings of being undervalued will also contribute further to the stress workers feel in the city.

During times of acute stress it can be common to hear voices. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone about your circumstances and what you’re experiencing. With employees spending an average of 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime, it is important they remain mindful of any stresses or internal voices and learn to how to manage these.

The Bigger Picture

The Health and Safety Executive have published recent findings in their Labour Force Survey that state there were 595,000 workers living with some form of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18. That number of people equates to approximately 15.4 million days lost across the UK with up to 44% of those days being due to high workloads. The survey further showed that Education and Healthcare were the industries that contributed to the highest levels of work-related stress, with public administration and defence not far behind.

In addition, The Mental Health Foundation also did a recent survey on 4,169 working adults in the UK and found that a lack of balance between the demands of the job and the control they have over tasks was a major contributing factor to stress. Of the people that were surveyed, it was found that an average of 23.9 working days were lost in 2017. This number effectively highlighted the importance of the employer’s responsibility to promote good mental health in the workplace and to protect the well-being of their employees.

What is being done?

The Welsh Government has developed a scheme called The Corporate Health Standard which is being put in place to encourage employers to adopt practices to improve their staff’s health and well-being. Developed by Healthy Working Wales it is quoted as being in place to be ‘a continuous journey of good practice and improvement for the health and well-being of employees.’

The Standard can be awarded to companies on different levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum depending on how committed they are to supporting the health of their employees. There is no restriction on which employers can sign up, but organisations with 50 employees or less might find some of the elements less relevant to them. If an organisation does express an interest, a Regional Workplace Health Practitioner can guide them through meeting the criteria of the standard. Some of the standard’s subjects are:

  • Health and Safety

  • Organisational Support

  • Mental Health

  • Alcohol/Substance Misuse

  • Physical activity

  • Tobacco

  • Corporate Social Responsibility

Taking personal responsibility

Although organisations are becoming more aware of mental health within the workplace, employees can also take certain actions to ensure that the risk of developing stress, anxiety or depression at work are reduced:

  • Realise when it’s causing a problem and identify the cause

  • Communicate this cause with a manager or Human Resources representative

  • Review of lifestyle and habits

  • Eat healthy, balanced meals every day and drink plenty of water

  • Pay attention to alcohol and caffeine intake

  • Exercise regularly

  • Get enough sleep

Work-related stress continues to be a problem, not only for the individuals involved, but for the economy as a whole. Studies have shown that employees who are happier at work are likely to be less stressed, get promoted more often and her generally more creative and productive at work. It also results in less time out and better productivity for the organisation as a whole. Responsibilities lie on both sides to ensure that any indication of stress, anxiety or depression are highlighted early on to minimise any negative impact.

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