A new survey by Mind has found that work is the biggest cause of stress, yet it seems many people still don’t feel able to go to their employer about this. That situation has to change.
The survey of some 2,000 people found that about a third saw their job as either quite or very stressful. Worryingly, this led to suicidal thoughts among 7% and to 18% developing feelings of anxiety.
Despite this, many employees still don’t feel they can approach their bosses about how they are feeling. The survey found that 1 in 5 felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed. Meanwhile, about 20% had taken time off due to stress, but of those, 90% had lied and cited a different reason for their absence.
The reasons for workplace stress are myriad – threat of redundancy, unrealistic productivity expectations, bullying by co-workers or bosses, to name but three – and we can’t afford to ignore it.
But it seems that, all too often, it is, and mental health remains a taboo subject in many workplaces. Unless there is an open approach to mental health issues, employees are likely to keep their problems to themselves, whether for fear of being sacked, victimised, not considered for promotions or for all kinds of other reasons – justified or not.
But, surveys like this – which add to others in the recent past on the prevalence of stress in the UK – mean that employers can no longer afford for mental health to be a taboo subject. Indeed, according to Mind and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), £2.4 billion is already wasted on staff turnover due to poor mental wellbeing.
While some employers may baulk at the perceived cost – in time and money – of putting mental health policies and structures in place, it doesn’t always need major investment to make a difference. For instance, there is a wealth of resources available on the internet offering advice on how to improve the mental health of employees, as well as webinars and training courses.
The clincher for encouraging employers to help improve the mental wellbeing of their employees is that it can make a positive difference to their business’ bottom line.
It’s a no-brainer: stressed employees tend not to be the most productive – £15.1 billion is lost through unproductive staff who are unable to cope due to mental health problems, according to Mind and the FSB – whereas those unencumbered by stress can focus more on their job.
Also, as the Mind research found, 3 in 5 people said that if their employer took action to support the mental wellbeing of all staff, they would feel more loyal, motivated and committed. This would surely increase productivity and cut down on staff churn, so reducing the cost of having to hire and train new employees.
In these austere times, when many businesses are counting every penny, surely implementing mental health policies should be a requirement, as any initial outlay would be more than recouped in increased productivity and reduced sick leave and staff turnover?