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Mental health in the workplace

11 Jan 2022
5 min read

For most, COVID-19 has presented a number of concerns including job loss, forced closures and reduced income. It has placed an increased pressure on health and relationships and has triggered an overall increase in fear and uncertainty. Despite already being a long-standing issue, poor mental health is now on the rise, with 1 in 4 people being diagnosed with a mental health issue each year (1). As a result, it’s highly likely that a HR professional will come across an employee with a mental health problem during some stage in the working life. Therefore, learning how to address these issues is vital, not only to the individual, but to the organisation as a whole.

While there is an increase in the awareness surrounding mental health issues, it is still an area that triggers fears of stigma and discrimination among individuals, particularly when admitting overwhelm or illness to  employers. Recently, however, there has been strong evidence to support the link between a high focus on mental well-being within an organisation, and an increase in productivity. After rolling out corporate virtual mental health sessions, MYNDUP discovered that 96% of employees felt less stressed, anxious and depressed after a session. Whilst 99% confirmed feeling more motivated and productive. As such, mental well-being and good management support are often interlinked, helping to reduce overall stress and depression in the workplace.

The legal bit

According to the Equality Act 2010, mental illness can be legally classed as a disability if it affects the ability for a person to perform their normal day-to-day tasks such as using a computer or interacting with others (2). If an employee has a mental health condition, it’s the responsibility of the HR department to support and accommodate their needs by offering reasonable adjustments and ensuring the employee feels secure and free from discrimination. Regardless of whether a mental illness is classed as a disability under the act, employers should still prioritise and advocate good mental health in the workplace.

What is meant by ‘reasonable adjustments’?

  • Adjusting someone’s tasks if they cause too much stress or pressure
  • Reducing working hours or set times
  • Sharing the workload and duties between team members
  • Frequenting an employee’s rest breaks
  • Allowing continued working from home post COVID-19
  • Increasing the support offered including resources, mental health awareness training, workshops and appraisals

Impact of mental ill health at work

The impact of mental ill health was reported by MHFA England to be responsible for 72 million working days lost each year, and a total of £34.9 billion (3). It’s further noted that employees with a mental health condition lose their jobs each year at double the rate to those without a mental health condition, equating to 300,000 people. It’s therefore reinforced that creating a supportive environment, and one in which employee’s feel able to speak openly about their problems can reduce the overall morale, productivity, and need to take time off work.

There are a number of things employers can do or put in place to ensure that they are supportive and committed in their approach to promoting good mental health:

  • Understanding early signs of mental health
  • Undertaking training and developing people management skills
  • Regularly reviewing employees job descriptions and work-loads
  • Promoting awareness of mental health issues across the organisation
  • Advocating work-life balance and flexible working patterns
  • Encouraging open communication and mental health sessions

Rather than simply responding to an employee that experiences poor mental health conditions at work, HR professions and organisations should actively promote a supportive and positive wellbeing environment, particularly in today’s current climate.

Find out more about our MYNDUP’s virtual mental health sessions for employees here.