It's time to be open about mental health

08 June 2012
It's time to be open about mental health

Looking after your staff is a business responsibility, and has a huge impact on productivity, sick leave and profits, says Mind chief executive Paul Farmer

Love it or loathe it, most of us spend the greater portion of our lives at work, and it should come as no surprise that what we experience every day in the kitchen, back office, at the front desk or on the restaurant floor, can have an enormous impact on our wellbeing.

Anyone who has spent time with a business where there is poor management, difficult communication, pressure to work at an unrealistic pace or even bullying, will know how demoralising these issues are. Likewise, those of us with a good employer can feel that their job contributes to their satisfaction with life.

While for some employers the idea of satisfied employees seems like an add-on to business needs, in reality the mood and culture of the workplace couldn't be more crucial.

In these times of economic hardship, businesses across the industry are under pressure to stretch resources - and these strains are being passed on to staff. Right now, one in six workers has stress, depression or anxiety.

For employers, this should be a major concern. However, a wealth of research has shown that many employers aren't even aware of the extent of the problem. Workplace mental health remains the elephant in the room - staff can't disclose to their employers for fear of the consequences, employers don't acknowledge the scale of the issue and all the while poor mental health and wellbeing are costing the industry millions of pounds every year.

It's clear that the first step is creating an open, supportive environment where employees can speak up about their stress and mental health problems, but in many workplaces it's a "taboo" and people are terrified of bringing it up.

Employers aren't always aware of how much this reaction costs their business. Poor mental health and wellbeing costs British industry £1,035 per employee, or £26b a year. However, businesses which start the dialogue about mental health at work and support their staff can save one-third of these costs - £8b a year.

Now is the time for employers to stand up and take action, supporting staff wellbeing and in turn getting the best performance from their employees.

Mind urges all businesses, regardless of size, to take simple steps to create an open and supportive environment. Communication is the key - only by encouraging openness about mental health will we ever eliminate discrimination, and create successful, healthy workplaces for us all.

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