Mental Health Problems cost UK employers £26 billion each year

Mental Health Problems cost UK employers £26 billion each year

The business case for supporting good mental health

In the first of several blogs, we look at the findings of the recent Mental Health Taskforce and what it means for you, your staff, and the success of your organisation.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) 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 to her or his community.

Mental ill-health is the absence of this ability to cope with normal stresses. The Taskforce report stated that it is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some stage in our lives. The most common problems are anxiety and depression, both of which are generally treated by a GP.

Everyday life outside of work produces a range of problems that induce stress in most of us from time to time – for example, issues such as bereavement, ill health, relationship difficulties, and financial worries.

You may not be able to control any of these external pressures, but many other stresses are caused by the workplace itself. As an employer you have a responsibility to your staff to prevent and reduce stress in the workplace.

The Health & Safety Executive list six major causes of workplace stress:

  • Bullying
  • Poor health and safety
  • Work that is too demanding for the skills of the employee
  • Inability to have control over own work
  • Lack of information
  • Poorly managed change

Good leadership should mean that none of these six causes should ever happen:

  • Is that true for your workplace?
  • Can your managers recognise when their staff are stressed?

These are a few of the signs they could look out for:

Changes in eating habits. This may not be immediately apparent in the workplace, however managers may begin to notice that a team member is rapidly losing or gaining weight.

Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking. Managers should look out for people taking more smoking breaks, regularly having hangovers, coming back from lunch smelling of alcohol or being unable to think as clearly as they have done previously.

Mood swings. These should be apparent, but only to managers who know their staff well and see them regularly. Sometimes, though, staff might ‘behave normally’in front of the manager but not towards other team members when the manager is not around. In this case it would be necessary to look for warning signs from others such as avoidance of the person or complaints about them.

Tiredness. Sleep patterns are very well researched. When we dream (REM) our brains are sorting out the issues of the day. The periods in between dreams are when our body is resting and rejuvenating. Stressed people have longer REM periods resulting in less time when the body rejuvenates. So even if they sleep for long periods, they awake tired.

Nervous behaviour. This may exhibit itself in a number of ways: reluctance to take on new work, twitching, not speaking coherently.

Changes in attendance. This might be taking more sick days, being late, working longer hours (avoiding issues at home) or taking longer lunch breaks.To find out more about the employers duty of care, how to recognise the warning signs and what you can do to address stress book onto one of our open training courses by calling 01954 267640 or email

In my next blog I will look at how employers can support good mental health at work.










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