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With mental ill health costing UK employers around £26bn a year* and, the number of sick days taken due to stress, anxiety and depression increasing from 11.8m days in 2010 to 15.2m days in 2013**, it’s not surprising that employers of all sizes may be thinking about how they can support the mental health of their workforces.
Our own research of senior business managers, executives and owners undertaken in February of this year revealed that over two thirds (69 per cent) don’t believe that suffering from stress, anxiety or depression is a serious enough reason for employees to be absent from work.*** It’s a prejudice that does neither employers nor employees living with mental ill health issues any favours.
Here are some tips to consider as part of your health and wellbeing planning:
• Workplace culture: building and maintaining a positive, supportive workplace culture needs to be led from the top, with senior managers demonstrating their awareness of and commitment to safeguarding mental health. For example, if bosses make a point of leaving work on time, others will follow suit.
• Working well: employers can encourage a wellness culture in a number of ways. These can include flexible working, encouraging employees to take regular breaks (and their holiday) and even having email ‘blackouts’ outside of working hours.
• Work/life balance: to avoid the pitfalls of overworking, try to encourage employees to work to their contracted hours. It is good policy to encourage employees to do their best when they’re at work but also to make the most of their time, unhindered by workplace concerns, when they’re done for the day. It will help them to become more resilient and less likely to succumb to stress and fatigue.
• Diet and exercise: these factors can have a significant impact on both physical and psychological health and, in turn, on performance and productivity. Indeed, poor physical health can adversely affect mood, self-esteem, energy levels and resilience. Even simple measures such as encouraging a healthy, balanced diet (which employers can facilitate by ensuring their canteens, vending machines and lunch delivery services offer healthy choices) and regular exercise (which they can facilitate through gym discounts and promoting lunch-time walking groups and sports like five a side football) can pay dividends by improving employees’ physical and mental health.
*Mental health at work: developing the business case. Centre for Mental Health, 2007:http://www.incorporasaludmental.org/images/doc/D_ENG_EMP_DOCU_GUIA_0036_Developing_the_business_case.pdf
**Sickness Absence in the Labour Market. Office for National Statistics, February 2014:http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_353899.pdf
***Online survey of 1000 senior business managers, MDs, CEOs and owners undertaken in February 2015 by market researcher One Poll.
Mark holds Associate Fellowship and Chartership with the British Psychological Society, he is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and is a chartered Scientist.
Mark joined the medical services of AXA PPP healthcare in June 2008 and was previously Clinical Director for AXA PPP healthcare Employee Support for over 10 years.
Prior to joining AXA Mark worked as a Senior Psychologist in the NHS and has many years of clinical experience and research expertise. He is an active member of the EAPA, BPS and BACP - Workplace. He maintains a private practice as a Psychologist in London.
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