As I go about my work, it’s not unusual to hear employers and employees say that it’s not their responsibility to care for mental health at work… and, yes, some people really do say that!
Of course, far from wanting to be critical, I would encourage people to take responsibility. You see, as employees, we have a duty to manage our own response to the pressures of work, just as much as it is our employer’s duty to ensure that appropriate care is taken to minimise the potential for stress and other mental health difficulties.
This is an enormous topic and one that is increasingly familiar to organisations, particularly as the incidence of stress in the workplace continues to escalate. How can that be allowed to happen, I hear you say. Well, it appears to be quite simple really; what we tend to do is to become reactive to issues as opposed to being proactive to them. Managers are often highly pressured and their capacity to prioritise may be heavily compromised as they seek to meet the demands of the business and staff welfare may not always be at the top of a list of priorities as a result. Employees are often struggling to keep up with the demands of their work, becoming so overwhelmed that their capacity for self-care may be heavily compromised too. The difficulty arises when these issues are not addressed.
Whilst, of course, stress is a natural human response in our desire for survival, it seems to me that we increasingly appear to accept that living with the adverse effects of it is normal. How often I hear people say that they are so very stressed, yet appear to take little or no action to address their response. However, that sense of feeling overwhelmed tends to prevent people from taking a physical and emotional step back from the issues that continue to fuel the problem.
Well, something has to give here, does it not? You see, if we continue to maintain a reactive response then nothing will change. So, today, I would encourage you to take one small step back, literally, and ask yourself these questions: Am I experiencing the effects of stress? Do I want to do something about it? Do I need some help to do that? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then I also encourage you to visit the following website: www.getselfhelp.co.uk and search for the guide: “Self Help For Stress”, which is free to download. However, I must add that this document is not just for bedtime reading, (actually I wouldn’t recommend you read it at bedtime) as it requires you to engage with it as a working resource.
If you are a manager and you are struggling to discern how to respond to employees who are experiencing stress at work, you might wish to consider performing a Stress Risk Assessment and relevant information can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards. This is an opportunity to work collaboratively, to assess how your employee is responding to the pressures of the workplace and how they might be best supported. Oh, and don’t forget to care for yourself in the process!
I wish you well in your exploration and please do consider accessing our services here at JR Corporate Health should you feel that some professional support might be helpful! https://jrcorporatehealth.co.uk
At JR Corporate Health we regularly receive comments that reinforce the need for appropriate intervention, but potential clients sometimes respond to the introduction of our service by saying:
Many employers are not aware of their legal duty of care to provide appropriate Health and Wellbeing support for their employees that naturally includes their mental health and the ability to cope with stress that may impact on their work, motivation and performance. Enlightened employers recognise the positive impact of engaging professional support services at an early stage: a present and motivated workforce resulting in greater profitability!
ACAS, the independent advisory service recently published a Framework for Positive Mental Health at Work (July 2018).
They highlight the importance of addressing mental health issues, noting that: “People that feel good about themselves often work productively, interact well with colleagues and make a valuable contribution to the workplace.”
They also reported on a recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which highlighted the impact of mental ill-health on organisations:
The study found:
The study also found that, for the first time, stress is the major cause of long-term absence in manual and non-manual workers.
Further evidence suggests that there is a large annual cost to employers, nationally, of between £33 billion and £42 billion (with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work), with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover. Source: Thriving at Work, Stevenson Farmer Review – p5.
The BBC recently reported on a survey conducted by the charity Mind “Poor mental health affects half of all employees, according to a survey of 44,000 people carried out by the mental health charity Mind. Only half of those who had experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood had talked to their employer about it. Read: Poor mental health at work 'widespread'.
In the face of this overwhelming evidence, what one thing could you change to make your business more profitable when it comes to Health and Wellbeing?
JR Corporate Health blogs cover topics such as management support, supervision, psychological support, critical incident support and wellbeing in the workplace.