Published on 26th October 2017, we have created a synopsis of the Stevenson/Farmer Thriving at Work report to give an overview of the main points of the report.
The UK is facing a mental health crisis in the workplace. More people are off sick than ever before and more employees are struggling with mental health conditions at work. The number of people leaving employment due to mental health conditions is increasing. Not only does poor mental health have a significant effect on the individual themselves, it also has a huge impact on those surrounding them.
The cost to employers
The poor mental health of employees creates a huge cost for employers with clear evidence suggesting there is a strong link between mental health and productivity. Poor mental health decreases the productivity of employees at work. The annual cost of poor mental health to employers is £33-£42 billion a year in sick leave, staff turnover and productivity. Therefore, it is in the interest of employers to do everything they can to improve the mental well-being of their employees.
The right changes
Stevenson and Farmer’s (2017) review on mental health and employers suggests that with the right changes made to how employers address the mental health of their employees, the number of people leaving work due to mental health problems could reduce by 100,000. Through increased awareness, a better framework for how to cope with mental health problems and support for those who are struggling, even individuals with extremely serious mental health problems can thrive at work.
Employers and national bodies have a duty to make sure the mental health of employees is maintained and should implement a set of core mental health standards to ensure this happens. Stevenson and Farmer (2017) suggest a set of 6 core mental health standards which all organisations have the capability to enforce quickly. Organisations and employers should:
- Produce and implement a mental health at work plan for employees.
- Increase mental health awareness.
- Encourage and support open conversations about mental health, making support available to those who are struggling with mental health problems.
- Provide good working conditions for employees, ensuring they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities to develop.
- Promote effective people management.
- Monitor employee mental health and well-being consistently.
The public sector’s role in modelling employer behaviour
The public sector plays a vital role in the promoting the adoption of these standards. Employing 5.4 million people, the public sector must lead the way to changing how mental health is addressed in the workplace. Specific attention should be focused on public sector areas which involve a higher risk of stress and trauma. The focus should be on the three largest public employers in the country: the National Health Service (NHS), Education and the Civil Service. Accountability for protecting the mental health of their employees should be firmly established.
Employers have a responsibility to uphold the core mental health standards to improve the mental well-being of their employees and also improve the productivity of their staff. To effectively promote these standards, employers must increase transparency by reporting on mental health in the workplace through their website and other channels. They must also ensure they take accountability for their employee’s well-being by providing in-house support is available for those who are struggling with mental health problems.
To enable employers to make these changes, there must be external support for available to employers, allowing them to receive guidance on how to deal with workplace mental health. The training programmes and assessments professional bodies enforce should involve the teaching of how to approach dealing with mental health at work. It is recommended that rewards and support should be given to employers who adopt these mental health standards and those who provide good support for their employees.
Maintaining mental health standards
In the public sector, it is important that regulatory bodies make sure employers are maintain mental health standards and regularly evaluate employer’s approaches to employee mental health. Employers should also be encouraged to identify those who are at a higher risk of stress and trauma, with an effective framework being produced to ensure their mental well-being is supported.
The government also play a huge role in encouraging the adopting of core mental health standards. Their influence should and could be used to create quick change across all sectors. To encourage employers to adopt these standards, the Government should create legislation which sets certain expectations for employers. Legislation should be designed to protect employees with mental health problems at work, especially those who have fluctuating conditions. For employees who struggle with these, employers should be made accountable for ensuring adjustments are made for them.
By increasing the role of incentives and making employers adhere to enhanced standards, they could improve the quality of employee mental health. Creating employment objectives for senior leaders across the public sector and making sure they are held accountable for adopting mental health standards could improve the mental well-being of employees across the public sector.
It must be addressed that adopting core mental health standards is easier for workplaces that already have the structures in place to do so. The difficulty comes with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the self-employed. This is where the utilisation of local organisations and networks is of extreme importance in making sure the mental wellbeing of employees within these smaller businesses is maintained.
Access to care that fits around employment
Together, the government and NHS bodies should work towards encouraging mental health services to provide quick and convenient access to care that fits around employment. This can be effectively implemented by increasing employee access to online platforms which connect employees with NHS-approved health and well-being advice and support. As mentioned before, this is especially important for those who are self-employed or work for SMEs where structures are not in place to allow the easy adoption of mental health standards. As technology advances, the importance of digital products is growing. It’s a cost-effective way to enable change and increase accessibility which makes it an effective tool to improve employee mental health.
The Government, national bodies, the public sector and employers all have a responsibility to make sure the mental health of their employees is maintained and they all must work towards this as a common goal. By increasing the mental health standards employers are held too, it is hoped that the mental well-being of employees will improve.