In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and almost one in three employees experience mental health issues whilst in employment.
Mental health issues are the leading cause of workplace absence in the UK, costing the economy £35 billion each year (with an estimated 95 per cent of employees giving a different reason when they call in sick). In addition, 15 per cent of employees face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion if they disclose a mental health issue at work. So shocking.
Experts say that by reducing the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace we can reduce absences, increase performance and make everyone feel better. In the spirit of this news, I’m relaxed about sharing that I’ve suffered from mild depression, anxiety and stress over the years. In fact, most of the people I love have suffered from mental ill health at some point. Many of us have, and we all know someone who has been affected.
I feel extremely lucky that my employer (Virgin Management) takes employee mental wellness seriously – the fact that I’ve just had a very lovely massage (at work) and recently took part in an excellent Vedic Meditation course (paid for by work) are testament to this. VML also has digital detox every Wednesday – a time when emails are turned off so we can spend the time stepping away from digital overload and reconnecting with colleagues.
Supporting staff and encouraging them to share their stories, is just one of the principles of the Time to Change pledge – a pledge asking UK employers to make a commitment to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace.
A Unilever project in Brazil reporting savings of $1200 per person through investing in employee mental wellness
Additional principles including accountability, creating champions, raising awareness and implementing policies can all lead to better health and increased employee satisfaction. Investing in mental wellness can also be good for business, with a Unilever project in Brazil reporting savings of $1200 per person through investing in employee mental wellness.
A number of 100% Human at Work network members have already put employee mental wellness at the forefront of their strategies, including Virgin Trains East Coast, who invited me to a thoroughly enjoyable World Mental Health Day Conference as part of their commitment to raising awareness. Their commitment to mental wellness forms part of the holistic wellness support they offer all employees and is also part of their CSR strategy along with their suicide prevention programme targeted to support customers.
Other network members that are focussed on mental wellness include Minds@Work – aiming to break the stigma of depression and anxiety in the working world. The Dinner Party – an organisation encouraging employers to help employees thrive at work and in life, despite losses and challenges that they might face. I’ve also previously written about Next Jump and their emotional training – one of the four key pillars of their culture.
Our friends over at Uplevel Global implement a number of initiatives to support their employees’ mental wellness; one of these initiatives is the Happiness Advantage. The team initially said that creating a 28 day program, where they collectively and simultaneously focussed on happiness and gratitude, seemed a bit risky and expensive, but was still something they believed would empower and influence the people they care about.
The Happiness Advantage resulted in many unintended, and great, consequences for the team, some of whom said their lives were changed. In addition, the positivity resulted in three record months for the business, with almost every KPI significantly improved.
I’m confident that not only is focussing on employee mental wellness morally the right thing to do for employers, but it also makes total business sense.
Our local partners in Australia are soon hosting the first 100% Human at Work think tank on Mental Health in the Workplace and I can’t wait to hear and share more about what our network members are doing in this space, and what further experiments they’re planning.