How is mental health being addressed in the workplace?

With one in six employees across the UK suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, how is this problem being addressed in the workplace?

Mental health problems cost employers in the UK over £30 billion a year, due to loss of productivity, recruitment requirements and an increase in absences. Although there’s greater awareness of the issue, due to an increase in education and heightened media coverage, studies have shown that this proactive attitude is yet to reach many companies and industries, including banking and finance. We spoke with Ashley McCuskey, Associate Key Client Business Manager at Huxley, to see how the industry is changing.

Changing attitudes across industries

Although awareness is increasing, Health and Safety Executive Geoff McDonald states that 11.7 million working days were lost in the UK last year due to depression and anxiety alone. Putting procedures in place for mental health and stress related issues doesn’t just fulfil duty of care requirements; it results in a more productive workforce that will likely reduce the amount of mental health related absences.

It’s common practice for organisations to offer benefits that cater for the welfare of physical health, with gym membership discounts and free medical checks. However, we’re now seeing an increasing number of companies offering support towards mental health, with internal and external counselling and support telephone lines becoming more readily available.

The reaction from organisations across Banking & Finance industries

In the past, mental health was seen as a weakness and not a fault in the management system, which isn’t the case. So it’s essential procedures are put in place to shine a spotlight on the problem.

The latest Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey found that 73% of respondents have at least one form of work-related stress. As a result, numerous companies are putting plans in place to ensure staff aren’t overworked or becoming more stressed. One of the most striking examples comes from Goldman Sachs, who reportedly told junior bankers they weren’t allowed in the office after 9pm on a Friday until 9am on a Sunday. These junior bankers were also “strongly encouraged” to take holiday time to focus on building and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

It’s important to note that it’s not just junior members of staff who suffer from mental health related issues. Stress and anxiety can affect people at all levels of an organisation. We’re now starting to see conversations about mental health taking place at a higher level. In 2016, 70% of employees working in the banking industry expressed concern that admitting to mental health problems could damage their career prospects. In addition to this, 77% of employers stated that they wouldn’t feel confident in addressing problems relating to mental health.

What employers can do to help

There are a number of procedures organisations can put in place to ensure their staff are supported. Simply encouraging conversations can have a profound effect on an employee’s mental health. Ashley noted that candidates are generally more open when broaching mental health issues, “They’re more comfortable letting us know if they have to miss interviews due to stress related issues, and in turn employers are more understanding due to this refreshing honesty.” She also said communication is the key to combating the issue, “It’s a 2 way street; if employees and candidates open up about how they’re feeling, then employers are happy to help and be flexible in order to accommodate any issues”.

Nick Babar, Director of KPMG and member of the Be Mindful network, recently said he’s witnessed individuals speaking more openly about mental health. This has encouraged others to be more open about asking for help. Below are just some of the services that organisations across the UK have put in place to combat the issue:

  • Offering regular meetings with managers to ensure lines of communication are always open
  • Inviting mental health professionals to speak to employees
  • Ensuring return to work interviews are conducted effectively and reasons for absences are monitored
  • Providing mental health awareness training for HR staff and management
  • Conducting confidential questionnaires and in turn creating a safe space for employees to air any grievances that may be distressing them
  • Allowing mental health appointments (i.e. psychotherapy) to be taken during working hours

At Huxley, we’re able to witness first-hand the various ways in which organisations support mental health issues. Ashley commented that clients she works with are making a conscious effort to ensure there are a range of programmes and support networks in place for their staff. Lloyds in particular are extremely passionate about promoting the importance of mental health awareness, partnering with Mental Health UK in pledging to raise £2 million for the charity.

We’re proud to work with an array of clients who pride themselves on ensuring that employee welfare is of paramount importance. If you’re looking for a new role and are passionate about finding a company that understands the importance of caring for your mental health, then we can help you. Click here to look for your next role today.

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