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Monday 10 October may be World Mental Health Day, but if you’re an employee or an employer, mental health should always be top of your agenda. A recent Mind and YouGov poll revealed that over half (56 per cent) of workers rated their work as very or fairly stressful. In fact, work was the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives, more so than financial problems, health or relationships.
We surveyed employees from a range of professions and stress came out high across the board. Every job has its unique pressures and nobody is immune to the effects of unmanageable stress. That’s why, regardless of industry, employers need to take mental health in the workplace seriously – by promoting wellbeing for all staff, tackling the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health, and supporting employees who are experiencing a mental health problem.
We’ve seen a quiet revolution over the past few years as more and more responsible employers put in place wellbeing initiatives. As well as being the right thing to do, and sending a message to staff that they are valued, there’s also a strong business case, with employers that promote staff wellbeing seeing increased productivity and retention . Three in five workers agreed that if their employer took action to support staff mental wellbeing, they’d feel more loyal, motivated, committed and likely to recommend their workplace as a good place to work . Many employers now offer wellbeing benefits such as flexible working hours, so those organisations that don’t offer these things risk losing good staff to a competitor that does.
Anyone working in creative industries knows only too well the challenging nature of the job. We hear from many people who tell us that despite being hugely rewarding, the combination of high stress, relatively low wages and long hours make for a workplace that’s not always conducive to good mental health. This can be even more heightened if you’re self-employed or freelancing, worrying about where your next job and pay cheque is coming from, and not always having the security, routine, or line management support that you might otherwise have in a more “traditional” set up. If you are then feeling stressed, this can negatively impact on your ability to generate ideas and be creative which can be additional stressor.
Like many other sectors, employees working in the arts often don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health and stress. Of the workers we polled who had been off sick with stress, just 5 per cent had told their employer they were too stressed to work. The remaining 95 per cent gave another reason for their absence. That’s why, above all else, we want to see employers create an open culture where staff feel able to talk about their wellbeing without being perceived as weak or incapable. Bottling things up can make them worse, as can continuing working when you’re struggling with unmanageable stress or a mental health problem.
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If you’ve experienced mental health problems at work, deciding whether or not to tell your employer can be difficult. Ideally, employees need to rest assured that if they do disclose any issues, they’ll be met with understanding and support, rather than stigma or discrimination. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, mental health is still a taboo. We’d recommend getting legal advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before having that conversation.
It’s important colleagues keep an eye out for each other because we all have mental health. As mental health problems affect everyone differently, and people are often good at making their symptoms, it can be hard to spot and support a colleague who is going through a tough patch. Someone experiencing a mental health problem such as depression may struggle with things like motivation, punctuality and decision-making. Their behaviour might change – an employee who is normally outgoing and chatty may become quiet and withdrawn.
If you think a colleague is struggling with their mental health, talk to them. You might fear saying the wrong thing, but it’s better to say something than nothing. That person may be struggling in silence, waiting for someone to reach out to them. Asking someone how they’re doing lets them know you care. If they’re not ready to talk, they know they can speak to you should they need to.
We’re launching a Workplace Wellbeing Index to enable employers to celebrate the good work they’re doing to promote staff mental wellbeing and get the support they need to be able to do this even better: www.mind.org.uk/index/
Our website – www.mind.org.uk/work – has lots of free resources for staff
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind
Editor: Florence Bailey
Mind-commissioned poll by YouGov Plc (2014). Total sample size was 2,015 adults, of which 1,251 were working. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29-30 October 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (2014). Does worker wellbeing impact performance?
Corporate Leadership Council, Corporate Executive Board (2004). Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement
Mind-commissioned poll by Populus (2013). Total sample size was 2060 adults aged 18+ in England and Wales, in work between 6-10 March 2013.
Mind-commissioned poll by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,015 adults, of which 1,251 were working. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29-30 October 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).