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Looking out for Mental Wellbeing

24 October 2012

More than 6 million adults and 700,000 children suffer from depression or anxiety conditions. A third of families have a member suffering from a mental illness and mental problems account for nearly half of absenteeism at work. Despite years of campaigning, some aspects of mental health remain taboo, unrecognised or misunderstood, especially in the workplace. Stress. Loneliness. Sleep and eating disorders. Organisations can link with mental health service professionals to respond in better ways to the needs of vulnerable people in their workplace and marginalised people in society.

Employers are beginning to understand the importance of tackling the little understood mental health issue of loneliness. The impacts on performance are there to see – lack of engagement, communication, participation or fulfilment.

UK productivity lags behind the average of the other G7 countries. 14% of UK employees are fully engaged, compared to a 21% global average. Absence costs the UK economy more than £17 billion a year, with the average employee taking 6.5 days off sick in 2010. 50% of private companies are taking steps to reduce stress in the workplace – to bring down an estimated cost of £3.8 billion a year to UK businesses.

Studies are showing strong links between people’s sleeping difficulties and their performance at work and in life. Many people crave better sleep and are resorting to creative approaches to get it – from sleep therapy to acquiring exotic American sleeping tablets on the internet. With addictions galore in some of these alternatives, physical activity remains the best recommendation.

Organisations must focus on the bigger picture – how physical and mental health work together for Wellness. It’s all connected. We know that employees who work in an environment with poor, dysfunctional or autocratic management are likely to suffer from low morale which has a negative impact on their motivation and overall wellbeing. Now more than ever employees are under pressure, with 41% of private sector employees experiencing stress. And now more than ever, organisations need to support their employees’ mental wellbeing.

Solutions do not have to be expensive. Employee volunteering that bucks the current trend for skill-based capacity building and enables staff to work together to physically dig the soil or build a wall can work wonders for both team building and refreshing the mind. Employee empowerment by sharing solution finding – brainstorms, ideas walls, challenge prizes – can significantly increase a sense of belonging. The key is to include and involve everyone.