Posted on: 21 November 2018
Mental health issues in the workplace
The Office of National Statistics recently reported that the average number of sick days taken by employees has dropped by almost half in the last 25 years particularly in 2017, where employees took an average of 4.1 sick days. Whilst this statistic sounds like it should be celebrated, in fact it reveals a more worrying fact.
Further research revealed that almost 50% of employees actually did nothing to relieve the symptoms of work-related stress, and although overall figures have dropped, 30% of employers said that they had seen a rise in employees taking sick days to help cope with mental health issues.
Poor mental health has fast become one of the most serious health concerns in recent years, with the UK government pledging £2bn for mental health services in the 2018 Budget, although critics have stated that this pledge was not enough.
Research has found that conditions such as anxiety and depression are caused by increased workloads, financial concerns and workplace bullying. Despite this and increased media coverage for dealing with mental illnesses, nearly half (49%) of employers surveyed said that they did not access occupational health support for their staff from external bodies, and 10% were not aware of any available support.
What can you do to help your staff relieve stress and improve their mental health?
Whilst a lot of staff will work set hours, it may be necessary for them to be able to work flexibly to suit their needs. It may also be beneficial to mental health if staff are able to work from home.
Talk to your staff
Mental health campaigns, such as Time to Talk and “UOKM8?” encourage free discussion of mental health issues. Have regular check-ins with any staff that you manage from time to time to check on how they are doing.
Implement stress relief activities
Making time in your diary for stress relieving activities can be a great way of helping your staff to reduce stress levels. Why not go for a lunchtime walk, or even arrange group yoga sessions?
A 2018 study from the Trades Union Congress reported that in 2018, 8.3% of the UK workforce, around 2.2m workers, do not take their full holiday entitlement, and a further 1.2m didn’t receive any paid leave at all.
Employees stated that their work load was one of the reasons that they couldn’t take time off, and leave requests were often denied. Research from the Framingham Heart Study also showed that men were 30% more likely to have a heart attack if they didn’t take holidays, and surprisingly, this figure increases to 50% in women.
You should encourage staff to use their full holiday entitlement, and can do so by:
- Reminding staff to take their holiday days as soon as possible. It’s as simple as a quick email!
- Have a system in place to keep track of how many days your staff have left. This can be in a spreadsheet or word document. There are even software packages available which can help you track holiday days.
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Source: Zywave Inc. – HR Brief Q3 2018
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