No surprises at all, workplace mental health statistics in the UK echo similar findings to Australian workplaces. The Stevenson/Farmer Review of Mental Health for Employers commissioned by the UK Government published last week revealed that the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work that is much larger than they expected to find prior to the study. Employers are losing billions of pounds because employers are less productive, less effective, or off sick.
The study estimates that in the UK at any given time 15% of employees have a mental health problem. Compare this to Australia where it is estimated that 20% of all employees have poor mental health. The research reports that 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem in the UK lose their jobs each year and that this may be an under representation of the actual figures.The cost of poor mental health to the UK economy is between £74 billion and £99 billion per year. In Australia the cost is estimated at $12 billion per year. Deloitte’s analysis of Australian case studies where investments have been made in improving mental health show a consistently positive return on investment with an associated return of £9.98 for each pound spent on such training.
The UK Government is aiming to be one of the leading nations in relation to mental health to become global leaders in reducing stigma, improving the mental health of the population and support for those who need it, and in the process improve the UK’s productivity. The goal is to have all organisations, whatever their size:
- equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill-health caused or worsened by work;
- equipped to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive, from recruitment and throughout the organisation; and
- aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health.
“Many employers are already creating healthy, inclusive workplaces, but more needs to be done so that employers provide the support needed for employees with mental health conditions.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May, January 2017
The UK study was underpinned by the belief that employers are able to have the greatest impact on worker’s mental health and have the scope to make that impact. The recommendations from this study suggest employers can immediately:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan;
- Develop mental health awareness among employees;
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling;
- Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development;
- Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors; and
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing.
The highlighted suggestions in the above list can be supported by online and tech solutions such as All of Me. This platform accessed via computer and any smart device (phone or tablet) helps organisations identify staff groups with workplace mental health issues early. It helps to increase mental health literacy by providing refresher training on workplace stressors that impact mental health. Finally, All of Me provides an alternative, non-confrontational way to encourage help-seeking.
Australia and the UK are on a similar journey to improve workplace mental health and well-being to ensure quality of life and improved productivity. Research such as this study provides guidelines and strategies to encourage actions from government, the public sector and employers. In doing so, we are on the road to achieving a holistic approach to improving awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging support for people in our communities suffering from poor mental health. Given that 30% of women and 47% of men will have a situation in their lives impacting on their mental health that is likely to spill over and into the workplace, business needs to take a good hard look at how they might mitigate the risks.