Knowledge & Insight

Mental Health in the Workplace

Fri 31 January 2020

In a new white paper by Deloitte, mental health experts explore the growing issue of poor mental health and examine the case for greater investment in workplace interventions.

Background

With around one sixth of all workers suffering some sort of mental health issue at any one time, it’s clear that the UK is in the grip of a crisis. In a recent white paper, Deloitte put the economic cost of poor mental health at £45 billion, yet the cost to individuals is incalculable. And whilst there has been a shift in attitudes around metal health in the workplace, with many employers providing greater support and encouraging their people to talk openly about the issue, it seems that common working practices are pulling in the opposite direction. In particular, increased use of technology has encouraged an ‘always on’ culture that, for many people, appears to be driving higher levels of anxiety and depression.

Costs

The economic cost of poor mental health consists of three major components. The most obvious is the cost of absence – paying staff when they aren’t at work. And the least obvious is turnover cost – paying to replace staff who have left because they were deeply unhappy. Yet by the far the largest is the cost of ‘presenteeism’ – when employees make the effort to come into work despite suffering mental health issues, but as a result of those issues are not productive. Trends indicate that while the cost of absence has fallen in recent years, cost of presenteeism has risen sharply.

Investment required

The case for investment in positive mental health programmes is hugely compelling, particularly given the scale of the costs, and the productivity and operational implications of poor mental health. Deloitte’s analysis indicates a return of £5 for every £1 spent on initiatives, which can range from large-scale preventative interventions, through to advanced screening and tailored support for high-risk individuals. Early-stage interventions typically include culture change and awareness raising exercises, together with online cognitive behavioural therapy sessions, weekly exercise sessions and group stress management.  These can be supported by telephone-based services and EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) counselling.

Other potential solutions

Deloitte’s analysis clearly shows that although poor mental health has lower visibility within SME’s, the risks can often be higher. The flipside to this is that the benefits from addressing and tackling the challenge can be greater. The most obvious win-win is to provide enhanced training to at-risk personnel, because this can both help relieve stress and anxiety if an individual is struggling to perform at expected levels, and also boosts performance and productivity. Tackling the stigma around poor mental health is also a major step that smaller employers must take if they are to make progress.

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