This is a guest blog by Ngozi Weller.
Ngozi is a mental health and wellbeing consultant and corporate trainer, who equips HR and people managers with the tools to improve employee wellbeing. With over 15 years of management experience behind her, she loves helping people to fulfil their potential and her company, Aurora Wellness, is running its ANGEL of Wellbeing for Managers workshop at Tebay Services Hotel on Thursday 16th January 2020 (10am - 1pm or 2pm - 5pm). Further details can be found here.
Since the 2017 publication of the government commissioned Stevenson and Farmer review on mental health and employers, organisations have become increasingly aware of the impact that employee mental health can have on workplace wellbeing and productivity.
Mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers up to £42 billion in 2017, including £8 billion in sickness absence and £8 billion in staff turnover. Three in every five employees experience mental health issues because of work and 31% of the UK workforce is formally diagnosed with a mental health condition. Stress, depression and anxiety are among the top causes for employee sickness absences.
However increased awareness has not led to a significant reduction in the negative impact of common mental health disorders (CMDs) at work. That is despite most companies introducing a range of formalised support services to help, such as mental health champions and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
The problem is, for the most part, these services require the person struggling to reach out for help when they are at their most vulnerable and least able to do so. I know this from personal experience. I was officially signed off from my work in the Oil and Gas sector having been diagnosed with work related stress and anxiety leading to depression, despite the fact that my company had an active EAP.
They would surely have helped, if I had contacted them, but I didn’t, since I hadn’t recognised that I was actually unwell, and most importantly, neither had my manager.
Few are trained or equipped in dealing with mental ill health, yet as those on the front line of people management, line managers are the key to improving workplace wellbeing. That is why we need to move from a reactive to a more proactive system of support for mental health in the workplace.
The first step is to create an environment that supports open and honest conversations around workplace mental health. It is imperative to establish psychological safety for all involved. Employees need to feel that they can approach managers or colleagues freely and without judgement or negative consequence. And in turn, managers need to feel secure in the knowledge that they too will be supported and signposted to further help when required.
It is only by having the difficult conversations, sharing stories and showing real empathy and understanding that you can start to make meaningful strides towards meeting your employees’ wellness needs.