40% increase in mental health issues – is wellbeing working?

Despite a wide take up of wellbeing practices, UK employers are still seeing a 40% increase in reports of mental health issues at work.

So, with an increasing number of wellbeing initiatives and policies in place, and some of the Best 100 companies to work for citing these policies as their success, how are these figures still on the rise?

A contributor is likely to be that there is less of a stigma attached to mental health issues both inside and outside of the workplace. People with mental health problems already experience less discrimination from friends (14% less than in 2008), family (9% less) and in social life (11% less). There has also been a 3.6% positive increase in public attitudes towards people with mental health problems since 2008.

From ‘work-life’ to ‘whole-person’

CIPD 2015 says, ‘Mental health problems are rarely caused by work alone, but if the workplace is not set up to support them it can tip an employee over the brink, with anxiety, depression and stress-related disorders the most common problems. Trying to balance caring responsibilities with work is an added pressure: growing numbers of workers are now looking after not just children and parents, but grandparents too.

Clearly, in a climate where ‘work-life integration’ has taken over from ‘work-life balance’, only those organisations that take a ‘whole-person’ approach to managing mental health issues will reap benefits from their wellbeing strategies.’

No Health Without Mental Health

Government policy states that 1 in 4 people in the UK has a mental health condition, and they plan to align mental health and physical health priorities, where mental health would previously have been left behind. The strategy, dubbed No Health Without Mental Health, means that discrimination associated with mental health problems is ending, with every sufferer receiving proper care and support at the right time.

This is good news for employers and HR professionals, as although the reported number of cases may be on the rise, the increasing ability to deal with them and overcome them means that employees can get back to work faster. The approach needed to maintain the success of this plan is cited as, ‘a joined up approach between health and employment services and supportive action by employers’.

How does stress manifest?

Work related stress often comes from poor management, broken down communications, job descriptions that do not match the role, time pressure and a closed approach to change management. By addressing these issues alongside wellbeing initiatives such as healthy eating, exercise and employee assistance programmes, employers can expect to maintain their workforce, driving engagement and retaining top employees.

A good line manager is vital to the success of an individual employee. They should offer praise, reward and above all, support. Employees should be supported with why they may be struggling to achieve work-life balance and how they feel they can be helped. If work related tasks are not being completed then the workload should be addressed, is the employee being expected too much of, or are they not the right fit for the role?

Life is an event

Great line managers also offer flexibility, being open to suggestions and realising that an afternoon at home during the week could do a lot of good to an employee’s mental health, without detriment to the business. Life events will inevitably impact employees during their time with a business, and top employees that employers wish to retain may experience multiple occurrences of these. If a change in circumstance has occurred and an individual now needs to care for a relative, look into flexible working or elder care benefits.

Offering the right preventative measures can be key in lessening the impact on a business from an employee’s life event. Access to counselling through employee assistance programmes, psychotherapy sessions through health cash plans and work-life support through employee benefits can all enable smooth transitions between work and non-work issues.

Who can help?

Charities such as Mind can be helpful when looking for free resources surrounding improving mental wellbeing and employee engagement.They also offer training courses and employer booklets, so HR departments can familiarise themselves with the issue at hand.

Rehab 4 Addiction offers a free hotline dedicated to assisting those suffering from drug, alcohol and mental health issues. Rehab 4 Addiction was established in 2011 by people who overcame addiction themselves. You can contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690.

We understand that smaller companies may not have the HR resources to manage mental wellbeing issues, so if you want to talk things through with a HR expert, or find out how to offer employee benefits that serve as preventative measures, call Cathy or Andy for a chat on 01454 808 658 or email us at hello@wearepes.co.uk.