In the news: Mental health in the workplace

What more can employers and managers do to help tackle the issue of mental health in the workplace? 
by Bethan Rees

Senior managers are most likely to experience the highest levels of stress at work, according to Karren Vergara, writing for Australian-based news site Financial Standard. Vergara points to a 2018 report by mental health organisation SuperFriend, titled Indicators of a thriving workplace, which surveyed over 5,000 Australian workers in a broad range of sectors.

According to Vergara, the report shows that one-quarter of workers experience high levels of stress in their jobs and recommends that employers do more to support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Almost half (45%) of respondents say they have experienced stigma in relation to mental health at work, and that this is most common among workers aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 64% of respondents believe investing in mental health and wellbeing would improve productivity, with 55% saying it would reduce sickness and absenteeism. 

SuperFriend chief executive Margo Lydon is quoted: “Australian workers recognise the benefits for employers of investing in mental health and wellbeing and want to see their employers actively taking an interest and getting involved in the policies being put into place.” 

Financial Standard article

Time to change 
In the UK, Paul Feeney, chief executive of financial services firm Quilter, has spoken out about his poor mental health and how he wants his company to be a place where it’s OK to talk about such issues, reports Ollie Smith for Citywire

Feeney says he has signed the Time to Change pledge on behalf of Quilter. The employer pledge is a commitment to change the way mental health is acted upon and spoken about in the workplace, to ensure employees are supported. As it stands, 993 organisations have pledged to end mental health stigma. Firms that have signed the pledge include London Stock Exchange Group, HSBC, Santander and Deloitte. 

“I’ve had my own mental health issues in my life and it’s OK to talk about them,” Feeney tells Citywire’s Smith.

“Given the nature of the people that we have and that we attract to our business, they create the culture. All I have to do is enable the environment where our people can thrive and then it will work.”

Citywire article 

More awareness neededHowever, it seems that not all workers enjoy the kind of supportive environment that Feeney wishes to create. Employees in the UK are not reporting mental health problems to their employer as they fear it might damage their career progression or harm relationships with colleagues, according to Simoney Kyriakou for FT Adviser.

According to Kyriakou, a survey by healthtech provider Mynurva of 2,000 UK adults reveals that, while 32% of respondents have suffered from mental ill-health in the workplace, 37% haven’t sought professional help.  

GP Dr Zain Sikafi, chief executive and founder of Mynurva, says: “Society is certainly taking positive steps forward in talking more and more about mental health, but evidently there is still much more to be done in a professional context.”

Kyriakou references another survey by workplace insurance provider Unum, which she says shows that 72% of 3,000 UK employees feel “nervous, tense or edgy” in the workplace, while 48% feel “worn out” at least once a week. 

In response to these findings, Liz Walker, head of HR for Unum, urges employers to spot warning signs about employees’ mental ill-health. She says: “Employers and line managers can ensure they are in tune to signs that an employee may be under stress, or suffering from mental ill-health, and provide appropriate support. Even simple steps such as reducing a workload, or ensuring the employee is aware of resources such as employee assistance programmes, can have a big impact.”

FT Adviser article

While firms appear to be taking steps in the right direction to tackle the workplace stigma surrounding mental health, if workers in Australia and the UK are still feeling the burden of stress and anxiety, there is clearly more work to be done.
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Published: 09 Nov 2018
  • News
  • The Review
  • employee assistance
  • mental health

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