Why Work Still Needs To Be Done To Raise Awareness Of Mental Ill-Health In The Workplace

Being World Mental Health Day, today is a great opportunity to draw attention to aspects of mental ill-health which often go unseen in the workplace. 

Commonly people think of mental ill-health as something that could never happen to the them, that is strange, and that only effects a few people. The truth is that 25% of the UK population experiences a mental health problem each year. Anyone can suffer from issues with their mental health, at any time. Very often, these people are suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress. Far too often in the workplace, mental health issues can go unnoticed and can sometimes even be dismissed as ‘part of the job.’

In a survey conducted by leading charity Mind, 48% of the 44,000 employees consulted admitted suffering from mental ill-health because of their jobs. Half of those employees went on to say that they would be uncomfortable beginning frank and open conversations with their line managers if they experienced poor mental health. The fact that so many workers in the UK suffer from mental ill-health but worry that their employers might judge them negatively for disclosing this suffering to them is deeply concerning. Imagine falling on the stairs in the office and spending the rest of the day tapping away at your computer, hoping that the blood pouring from your head went unnoticed and didn’t inconvenience anybody. The chances are, you probably wouldn’t get much work done that day and would also be notably unimpressed with your manager’s lack of compassion. Now imagine yourself nervously pacing through the office, highly stressed because a problem caused by someone at a different company has left you under huge pressure to meet a deadline, while your boss refuses to show you some understanding and give your more time to complete the project. You would probably walk back to your desk without attracting any attention from your colleagues and quietly sob into your tea while attempting to meet the impossible deadline. On finally getting home, it would be completely understandable if you began looking for a new job as soon as possible.

Sometimes without even realising it, employers are making great staff feel miserable, and sometimes even ill. It is vital that employers can pick up signs of mental ill-health which may not be physically or verbally expressed by employees, before these hidden personal crises develop into crises for their businesses.

Many companies are adapting their internal structures to show greater awareness of mental ill-health, by developing improved communication channels between management and their team members, so that stress can be identified and prevented before it develops into a crisis. Propellernet, a Brighton-based creative digital marketing agency arranges mandatory bi-weekly meetings between every employee and their manager, to discuss the impact of their workload on their mental well-being. Their manager then sits down with them and the two create a more manageable schedule together. This strategy should be implemented throughout the UK. Workers in some of the UK’s best jobs, in some of the country’s biggest cities are paying almost 50% of their earnings on rent. This makes them highly reluctant to indicate that they are struggling in a role, as their employer could then assign them to a role with fewer responsibilities and a lower wage.

If employers assure their employees that any admission of stress will not result in a sanction, then their employees will become happier and more productive. Leading graduate recruitment site GradTouch recently published a celebrated e-book ‘How we made our company culture not shit.’ The e-book details how the business changed their culture from enforcing traditional office hours of 8.45am-6pm, to a new culture which allowed employees to complete tasks whenever and wherever they wanted to. GradTouch co-founder Zac Williams writes

‘I think we’re finally starting to wake up to the fact that it doesn’t matter when you work. Where you work. All that matters are the results.’

After changing their office culture, GradTouch saw an incredible 180% increase in revenue and attracted £2.2 million in investment. The change was not easy. In fact, for the first eighteen months, the implementation of these changes caused so many issues that Zac and his team began to wonder if they had made an horrendous mistake. However, over time, they were able to develop a culture in which the values of senior management matched the values of staff. Opinions varied. Nonetheless, everyone on their team enjoyed their job, innovated the role initially outlined in their job description significantly, and completed work to the highest standard, in line with the new more flexible deadlines which had been agreed.

Conscientiously looking after your team’s mental well-being isn’t just the right thing to do morally. It is essential to your company’s growth in the modern economy. World Mental Health Day offers your business a fantastic opportunity to begin this journey to drastically increased growth.

We can help you achieve this growth by training your senior managers and HR teams, so that they can begin the conversation with your other staff, to create an environment which kicks the stress-bucket in your office out of the window, and allows new streams of revenue to flow in. Research shows that for every £1 invested in mental health, business receive a return of between £1.50 and £9. If you would like to see these returns reflected on your next set of quarterly profits, please get in touch, so that we can advise on the perfect course for your team.

Katie attended the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy where she set up Altruist in 2013. Since then, Katie has won various awards including Birmingham Mail's Young Achiever of the Year 2017, New Entrepreneurs Foundation 'Future Face of Business' and Entrepreneurial Spark's 'Most Accelerated Business'. She has also been a finalist in nine other award categories and in 2014, Katie was invited to attend the prestigious 'Women of the Year Lunch' in honour of her work raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

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