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Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 – Surviving or Thriving?

Fiona-And-Mark-Employment-Law

The Mental Health Foundation’s Awareness Week 8-14 May asks whether we are “Surviving or Thriving?” This focuses on the underlying reasons few of us are thriving rather than concentrating on why so many people have mental health problems.

At any one time, nearly one in six of the UK workforce is affected by a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Mental health related absences cost UK employers an estimated £26 billion per year and if people leave there are the additional recruitment costs of replacing them.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution.”

“Wellbeing” has been defined as “the ability to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community.”

Many factors in all areas of life will determine an individual’s mental health, but how they are supported at work can be vital. As solicitors that act for both employers and employees, we know that the working environment and culture is often the trigger causing stress and poor mental health.

Helpful strategies to combat this include:

  • recognition of how work can cause unreasonable levels of stress
  • training managers to recognise mental health problems
  • supporting employees and helping them manage their workloads
  • improving the physical environment
  • raising awareness of available support, such as Employee Assistance Programmes
  • ensuring regular supervisions or 1-2-1’s
  • building trust and giving employees an opportunity to raise issues with their manager at an early stage

Effective management is the key to unlocking the potential of employees and preventing stress or poor mental health.

Employers can do this by:

  • openly discussing mental health within their organisation
  • raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing
  • encouraging good work/life balance
  • allowing flexible hours or home working
  • maximising autonomy for staff in areas of their work
  • promoting positive working relationships and social activities

The benefits to your business in having a healthy workforce are obvious. Putting in place these types of strategies to support your workers may seem onerous but this effort will be rewarded by producing a happier, more effective and productive workforce. You should also see a significant reduction in absenteeism and improved staff retention rates.

For more information on managing ill health and disability in the workplace, contact our employment law team on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk to find out more.

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Sophie Williams

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