People with mental health problems contribute £225 billion to the UK economy
Author: John Bramer
For most of us, work is a big part of our lives. It's where we spend a lot of your time, how we earn money to live, and where we meet friends. Having a fulfilling, enjoyable working life is important to your mental health and overall well-being. Certainly, everyone has points in their lives where they feel like things are getting the better of them; sometimes it's their health, relationships, finances, or their job.
As our work is such a big part of life, it's important that work plays a role in supporting positive mental health.
It's also important for employers to support people who have mental health problems. According to statistics, more than 30% of the UK workforce has a mental health condition – and these people contribute a staggering £225 billion to the economy every year.
These people are valuable employees, so businesses need to look after them. Here, we suggest three ways employers can better support staff members with mental health problems and create a generally more supportive workplace.
What are mental health problems?
Before sharing our tips, it's useful to outline what constitutes a mental health problem. Sure enough, we all have times when we feel sad, stressed or scared. For a lot of people, these emotions will pass, but for others this isn’t the case. Sometimes, these feelings can lead to mental health problems like anxiety or depression that impact daily life.
Many things can trigger mental health problems, from poverty and trauma, to genetics. However, it is important to understand that mental health issues come in many different forms and affect people in different ways. Every individual's experience is different, so it's important that employers seek to accommodate this and resist stigmatising these conditions.
Supporting mental health problems in the workplace
1. Empower people to speak out
As we've touched on, there is sadly still a lot of stigma around mental health problems. To really help employees experiencing mental health difficulties, organisations need to create an environment where people feel like they can talk about their experiences.
Being able to talk about your feelings is essential to dealing with difficult situations, whether you suffer from mental health problems or not. It should never be seen as a sign of weakness; instead, it is an integral part of maintaining mental well-being. It can be hard to talk about your feelings in the workplace, but if co-workers and managers seek to nurture a mutually supportive and non-judgemental environment, valuable employees who suffer from mental health problems can feel more secure.
2. Reach out
However, it can't always be down to individuals to say when they need help. Sometimes, it'll be down to their friends and colleagues to initiate the conversation. For instance, many people with long-term mental health problems may need support on an ongoing basis. Even if they seem fine, it's possible they could do with a friendly check-in; in many ways, the same goes for creating a mutually supportive working environment more broadly.
There are also more formal programmes that management can put in place to support team members with ongoing mental health issues. This could include implementing a mentoring or coaching scheme, or simply asking employees how they could feel better supported. For example, some people have tell-tale signs that mean they're about to slip into a low period. If management is informed of these symptoms, they can be vigilant without intruding on the regular working day.
3. Enable remote working
By law, people with disabilities – which includes mental health problems – are allowed to ask for reasonable adjustments to their workplace to account for their disability. This levels the playing field between employees, so there are no barriers to work for people with mental health issues.
Often, a key adjustment is flexible working patterns and enabling remote working. By granting employees more flexible schedules or work-from-home programmes, management can meet staff where they are. Moreover, it's useful to extend these benefits to the wider team. According to research, flexible working hours promote happiness and greater productivity.
Getting the most out of every employee
Everyone is different and, often, diversity is a key strength of any team. People with mental health problems are a valuable part of the workforce who deserve support. To get the most out of these key workers, employers should create a safe, supportive and communicative environment. With the right training and tools, organisations can build an environment where every employee feels cared for – boosting job satisfaction, productivity, and value.
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