Mental health: seizing the momentum
By Louise Aston
There has never been a better time for employers to lead from the front on mental health issues, says Business in the Community’s Louise Aston, on the publication of the third annual mental health at work survey.
It’s an exciting time for mental health. We’ve reached an unprecedented tipping point of public awareness. Although employers have made slow incremental progress, we now need to take urgent, collective action to faster establish the solid building blocks for mental health.
Our Mental Health at Work 2018 report, produced in conjunction with Mercer shows many employers have already seized this opportunity. Their commitment to workplace mental health is making a profound difference to their employees and line managers who feel valued and supported in an inclusive organisation. But too many employees still feel that poor mental health will be a blight on their career and prospects. They hide their concerns and suffer in silence, putting their health at greater risk, and making it more unlikely they will fulfil their potential.
Saying ‘we care about mental health’ isn’t enough. Actions speak louder than words. Many leaders make a commitment to mental health at work but fail to ensure that their good intentions translate into genuine engagement at all levels of their organisation. Mental health and wellbeing must be embedded in the organisational culture. The best employers go even further, working with contractors and suppliers to ensure that everybody connected to the organisation can call on the right support when they need it.
We have long suspected the link between mental health and financial wellbeing, and the survey presents compelling evidence of a strong two-way relationship i.e. financial issues cause mental health issues and vice versa. Despite this two-way causal relationship, very few employers support employees experiencing financial difficulties or preventing them in the first place.
As huge financial pressure on employees with stagnant wages and living costs continues to rise, employers have an important role in educating employees in financial literacy and signposting them to appropriate sources of professional support.
Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Map identifies health and wellbeing as key issues businesses need to address to achieve long-term financial value. Our Workwell Model provides a framework for embedding health and wellbeing into organisational culture, demonstrating the benefits of taking a whole person, whole organisation approach that supports thriving people, thriving business and thriving communities. There is no health without mental health and in partnership with Public Health England we have developed a suite of interconnected toolkits for employers where mental health is the underpinning strand.
UK Plc should be working towards being UK Healthy Plc, because we know that for every pound invested in employee wellbeing pays back in productivity while attracting and retaining the best talent. This World Mental Health Day we’re calling on employers to:
Talk – Break the culture of silence that surrounds mental health by taking the Time to Change Employer’s Pledge
Train – Invest in basic mental health literacy for all employees and first aid training in mental health to support line manager capability
Take action – Implement practical actions from Business in the Community and Public Health England’s Mental Health toolkit for employers
Business is at its best when people are at their best. When people want to work for you because they feel valued and supported, you can recruit and retain the best talent to create winning teams. Thriving at work is a winning formula for us all.
To read the full Mental Health at Work report visit https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/MHAW2018
Louise Aston is Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community