Mental Health Misconceptions

There has clearly been a focus on improving general awareness of mental health over the last few years. This has of course been a very positive step and whilst we have not completely eradicated the ‘stigma’, more and more people are talking about mental health these days.

Paying specific attention to awareness of mental health in the workplace, millions of working days are lost each year due to mental health issues in the UK. Early diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions can make a huge impact in terms of recovery rates however; many UK workers are delaying seeking help for mental health conditions due to widely held misconceptions.

I believe the majority of people could identify the key symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, Bipolar, Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are known to be mental health conditions which are most commonly misunderstood by employees. Greater understanding of the specific signs and symptoms is needed to recognise mental ill health in a colleague.

So, what can Companies do to help improve understanding within the workplace?

Utilise the support and services you have in place

Many organisations will have some form of insurance in place to protect your employee’s wellbeing. However, are you aware of the additional added value benefits which may be included within your cover? Support services are becoming common place in employee benefit insurances and are included at no additional cost.

Consider implementing a Health & Wellbeing Strategy

An effective Health & Wellbeing Strategy will help to improve the wellness of your employees and implementing a strategy through planned wellbeing initiatives will promote and encourage wellbeing in the workplace. Wellbeing produces positive attitudes, engagement, motivation and innovative thinking which are all key to an organisation’s long-term effectiveness.

Consider the use of Mental Health Champions

Most places of work will have First Aid ‘Champions’ so why not have Mental Health Champions? People from within the business who are specifically trained to spot the signs of colleagues who may be struggling. They can help with educating their colleagues to be mental health aware as this is the first step to encourage early intervention.

Remember, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions early will have a dramatic impact when it comes to recovery. To aid this, we must do all we can to combat the issues of mental health misconceptions.

 

There are many steps which can be taken to ensure your business is providing the relevant support for your employees which Wingate Benefit Solutions can help you with. From implementing/developing an effective Health & Wellbeing Strategy to reviewing your existing employee benefit products to see if they include supplementary benefits, we can help you provide support for your employees. If you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com .

We have all been there. You have a stinking cold and really should be tucked up in bed with a cup of hot lemon but instead you have dragged yourself into the office as your emails are out of control and you have an important conference call with a potential new client. Whilst this is admiral and may be perceived as the correct thing to do, is this the most productive use of your time and how much damage are you doing to both yourself and the company’s productivity in the long run?

 

Presenteeism- the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required– is described by Professor Sir Cary Cooper at Manchester University as the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity, costing the UK economy almost twice as much as absenteeism. Whilst the term is relatively new, the concept of employees either turning up for work ill or attending the office when they should not, has been around for generations but with increasing concern about job security, is more prevalent than ever.

 

As expected the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s findings show that presenteeism is more prevalent in companies where long working hours are seen as the norm, and where targets and figures tend to take precedence over employee wellbeing.  Studies by Fellowes show more than half of UK workers currently continue to work at below par levels rather than taking days off to recover which can further prolong the effect of illness.

 

Legal & General research carried out in 2012 suggested absenteeism can lead to a 4% reduction in productivity but presenteeism can be as high as 12%. Proving furthermore, that the inhibition to stay in work has a detrimental impact on the quality of an employee’s output.

 

So what can companies do to tackle this ever-growing issue without breaking the bank?

 

Firstly, companies should renew and revamp their sickness policy to incorporate details of both absence and illness at work. Something as simple as confirming it is ok to have a day off when ill can reinforce the notion people will not be penalised for being sick. Additionally, senior members of staff being seen to have days off when ill can reinforce this notion.

 

Operate an open door policy and remove the mental health stigma. Giving employees the chance to speak about their feelings or the pressure of work/family life helps with the overall awareness of the situation. Preferable this should not be HR or management as employees will often be reluctant to speak to them. A popular alternative is to employ a “buddy system” or Mental Health Champions who have received appropriate mental health training.

 

Whilst it has been suggested flexible working has led to employees working longer hours, the overall concept of choosing when and how you work can be empowering and vital for employees. This will allow them to work when they are most productive and reap the rewards.

 

Make use of or implement health and wellbeing benefits. Research shows employees who have a strong health and wellbeing package are likely to be more loyal to their employer. Most Group Benefit products offer a free of charge Employee Assistance Programme, which have a 24/7 free of charge helpline assisting in anything from financial worries to stress counselling. Promote and make sure employees are aware of this.

 

Ultimately, happy and healthy employees do better work and companies that promote employee wellbeing will in the end outperform any that emphasise solely on productivity.

 

 

Dan is one of our Employee Benefit Consultants and can be contacted on 01883 332260 or daniel.pullin@wingatebs.com

 

References

CIPD Policy Report 2016

Fellows Research: World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Legal & General- 2012 research- unsure of name