4 min read | 24 April, 2019 By Sarah Benstead
Mental health problems affect one in six workers in the UK every year according to charity Mind, and the cost to the UK economy is somewhere between £74 billion and £99 billion a year. So, it comes as no surprise that increasing numbers of employers are looking at their role in staff wellbeing and introducing mental health training.
Staff are arguably a business’ most important assets – happy, well-adjusted employees will not only be more productive, but will take less days off sick, be more motivated and act as brand ambassadors for your business. However, if you have a large number of workers suffering from mental health issues such as depression, then productivity can nose dive, employee turnover can increase and ultimately your bottom line will take a hit.
There have been a lot of high-profile campaigns which have raised awareness of mental health in the public consciousness. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been prominent supporters of the Heads Together mental health initiative, for example. However, there is a still plenty of stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace and people don’t want to admit they're struggling due to the fear of being treated differently.
Far too often, mental health still falls under the radar and is sometimes seen as less important than other health and safety aspects. Managers without training may struggle to spot problems early on because they are simply unaware. Things like depression, anxiety and stress work on a sliding scale and can start off relatively mild or be mistaken for simple poor performance, but will escalate without intervention. Training is vital because it helps employers to better understand when a member of staff is struggling and in need of help.
It’s not about turning managers into pseudo therapists but rather helping them to spot problems early on and offer appropriate support because poor mental health can impact employee productivity and performance.
As an employer you owe a duty of care to your staff to take all reasonable steps to ensure their health, wellbeing and safety. This covers both physical and mental health. But it’s not just a legal duty, it’s good business practice to make sure your staff are looked after – it demonstrates a commitment to them and helps build trust and loyalty between you and them. If staff feel looked after and cared for, they’re far more likely to be loyal to your company, naturally act as brand ambassadors and work harder than if they feel like they’re left to get on with it with no pastoral support.
Your employer duty of care extends to ensuring you support employees with pre-existing health issues and disabilities and do what you can to prevent new ones developing. This naturally extends to mental as well as physical health too.
There are a number of different organisations running mental health training courses to help raise awareness in the workplace, many in partnership with Government initiatives to tackle the issues.