Mental Health and Wellbeing

Last reviewed on 23/06/2014 14:53

Ignoring mental health in the workplace doesn't make good business sense – research shows that FTSE 100 companies that prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%.

We know that performance and effectiveness at work is largely dependent on mental health and wellbeing - with as many as one in four of us experiencing problems with our mental health in the course of a year, organisations understand that this is an important issue for them and their staff.

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Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Mental health and wellbeing has moved up the agenda for employers. Growing research demonstrates the importance of mental health and wellbeing in relation to our performance and effectiveness at work. There are clear links between our physical and mental health that further supports the case for protecting mental health and wellbeing at work too. Poor mental health is associated with an increased risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, while good mental health is a known protective factor. Poor physical health also increases the risk of people developing mental health problems.

Employers should expect that at any one time nearly 1 in 6 of their workforce is affected by a mental health problem. A study carried out by the University of Strathclyde on behalf of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) reported that on average employees take21 days for each period of absence related to mental health.  Mental health problems cost Scottish employers over £2billion a year.

Stress, depression and anxiety are reported as the most common reasons for staff absence – however, a lot of the mental health absence that is work related could have been prevented. Evidence shows that there are a number of simple, cost effective ways to support employee mental health.

Employers could consider measures to support and protect employee wellbeing:

  • Flexible working options
  • Effectively 'mental health' trained managers
  • Raising awareness and creating an open culture to discuss mental health
  • Involving employees in decision making
  • Integrating mental health and wellbeing throughout policies and procedures
  • Introducing stress risk management procedures
  • Providing access to employee assistance programmes and occupational health
  • Having regular meetings with managers
  • Introducing performance management processes
  • Conducting return to work interviews.

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Employers' responsibilities around stress

Stress, although not a diagnosable medical condition, is a major contributor to a range of physical and mental health problems. The sources of stress, if not addressed, can lead to long term, debilitating health problems and lengthy absences from the workplace.

Employers have a responsibility to support staff who may be experiencing stress, either work-related, or otherwise. They also have a duty to ensure that risks arising from work activity are properly controlled. The Health and Safety Executive's Management Standards for Tackling Work-Related Stress, highlight the following aspects of work which may affect staff stress levels:

  • demands
  • control
  • support
  • relationships
  • roles
  • change.

By managing these organisational aspects of work, and reducing levels of stress in the workforce, employers will see the benefits in the form of:

  • increased productivity
  • reduction in accident levels
  • lower sickness absence rates
  • lower staff turnover
  • improved staff morale.

Read more on stress and an employers' responsibilities

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Tackling the stigma and discrimination of mental health problems

Tackling the stigma and discrimination of mental health problems in the workplace means that employers can make a positive impact on the lives of people who are experiencing, or have experienced, mental health problems.

Challenging negative assumptions about mental health problems and the ability to recover from them helps everyone, and can mean that staff are more likely to seek help earlier and recover more quickly.

Scotland's anti-stigma campaign, 'see me', has a range of free resources, including posters and leaflets, that can be displayed in the workplace to stimulate discussion and help improve attitudes.

→ To find out more, visit the See Me Scotland website (external site)

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Workplace Training - 'Mentally Healthy Workplace' training

Line managers are key to supporting and promoting the mental health and wellbeing of employees. Over a number of years, Healthy Working Lives - in partnership with employers, mental health service users and expert advisers - has developed a training package specifically for line managers. The course teaches us how to develop mentally healthy workplaces, including tackling stigma and discrimination, managing personal stress, supportive management practices and the legal requirements under The Equality Act (2010).

→ Find out more about Mentally Healthy Workplace training

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More information: mental health and wellbeing

Mentally Healthy Workplace Training

Work Positive This Stress Risk Management tool assists workplaces to identify and reduce potential causes of stress.

Well Scotland (external site) Well Scotland is the national mental health improvement website for Scotland. It is a resource intended for professionals who currently work in, or have an interest in the mental health improvement field.  

See Me Scotland (external site) Scotland's national campaign to challenge the stigma and discrimination of mental ill-health.

Choose Life (external site) The national strategy and action plan to reduce suicide and self-harm offers information and free training on how to intervene when someone is contemplating suicide.

Breathing Space (external site) Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone line service for any individual who is experiencing low mood or depression, or who is unusually worried and in need of someone to talk to. Call 0800 83 85 87, 6pm-2am

Scotland's Mental Health First Aid Training (external site) This comprehensive training package gives participants the skills required to deal with mental health crises using a similar approach to physical first aid courses.

The Scottish Recovery Network (SRN) (external site) SRN raises awareness that people can and do recover from health problems. The organisation works to increase our understanding of what helps people recover and stay well - and builds capacity for recovery by highlighting and supporting examples of good practice.

Samaritans (external site) Provides confidential, emotional support for people experiencing distress or despair. Also provides a number of courses for businesses to help tackle stress in the workplace.


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