One in 4 people in the UK are affected by serious mental health issues at some point in their lives. It’s time that businesses start taking some responsibility. The Gryphon investigates which companies are making strides towards a healthier work environment and those which are falling short of the mark.
Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It impacts the decisions we make, the relationships we form and just about every nook and cranny of our life when it takes a toll for the worst.
One in four people in the UK are affected by mental health at some point in their life. And I imagine all of us will be indirectly impacted at some point.
Taking this into account, along with the fact that on average, around 12% of our life is spent at work, it’s clear that employers have a responsibility to look after their employees’ mental wellbeing. However, this responsibility isn’t always fulfilled.
The 2017 Stevenson Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review found that in many workplaces, mental health is still a taboo subject and little is being done to support those struggling.
In the UK, only 11% of employees discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager, and half of employees say they would not discuss mental health with their line managers.
This isn’t surprising considering that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year.
Despite the often passive approach towards mental health at work, employers should have a vested interest in making mental health a priority. It is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK and loses employers billions of pounds each year.
So, it’s in everyone’s interest to club together and move society forwards in the battle against mental health stigma.
But things are looking up, and we can look to businesses leading on mental health initiatives for inspiration.
The Equality Act 2010 protects people with a mental illness from unfair treatment and entitles them to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work. In addition, the Thriving at Work review outlines core standards – a framework which all organisations can implement.
These include a range of standards including routinely monitoring employees’ mental health and wellbeing, developing awareness among employees and producing and communicating a mental health at work plan.
The review also outlines enhanced standards such as increasing transparency through internal and external reporting of mental health policies and improving the disclosure process regarding mental health issues.
Some companies are however going above and beyond on this front.
Innocent offer flexible working hours, free breakfast and a free gym membership for all of their employees.
They also offer a yoga club and mental health resources such as a 100% confidential employee assistance programme. Finally, Innocent offer two training courses aimed at promoting better understanding of mental wellbeing
Aviva has a well-being strategy which offers employees health checks, nutritional advice, a wellbeing app, mental health support and income protection provided free to all staff.
Sweaty Betty operated a ‘Reclaim Your Lunchbreak’ campaign as well as offering lunchtime yoga classes and a running club.
Other companies leading the way on employee mental health frameworks include Unilever, Iceland, Adobe and Netflix.
Other policies suggested to improve employee mental health include offering a good work-life balance, supporting employees through major life events, offering flexible hours and considering both introverts and extroverts in office design; offering quiet spaces can offset the sometimes negative impacts of hot desking.
And finally, both employers and employees should work towards talking about mental health openly at work.