Mental Health in the Workplace
One in four people in the UK suffer from mental health at some point in their lives, with anxiety and depression being the most common. These illnesses are often a reaction to a difficult life event but can also be caused by work-related stress. Where such stress is prolonged, it can lead to both physical and psychological damage.
Stress is defined as the ‘adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Most staff benefit from a certain amount of pressure in their work as it can keep them motivated and give them a sense of purpose and ambition. However, when too much pressure is placed on them, they can become overloaded.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) around 40% of all work-related illness is due to stress and causes over 11 million sick days a year. HSE has identified the primary causes of work-related stress to include excessive workload, lack of support from management, failure to build relationships at work and unrealistic work expectations.
Whilst there have undoubtedly been huge strides in mental health care and awareness in recent years, talking about mental health issues can still be incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental health means that many employees do not feel able to disclose the real reason for their absences from work. Furthermore, many employers do not know how to support their employees, or just don’t consider it to be their responsibility.
If you feel you may be experiencing a mental health problem at work, which is impacting on your ability to do your job, it is a good idea to raise it with your line manager, HR or a colleague as soon as possible so your employer can work out how best to help you.
Employers have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their staff including taking reasonable care to prevent issues surrounding mental health in the workplace from occurring. Employers cannot treat employees less favourably because of poor mental health and have a duty to take reasonable steps to remove or reduce any obstacles an employee is facing at work because of a mental health illness.
Taking positive steps to reduce workplace stress can have a beneficial impact on the productivity and efficiency of a business by improving staff performance, reducing absence levels, reducing workplace disputes and making the organisation a better place to work.