By Rachel Munns, Apr 9 2019 12:07PM
In the UK, issues relating to poor mental health are currently the biggest reason for people leaving the workplace. Absenteeism is costly and disruptive. Presenteeism (coming to work when ill) has been estimated to be twice as costly as absenteeism; this hidden cost has massive impacts on performance and health & safety.
For those who like stats… An independent review of the impact of poor mental health in the workplace, ‘Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers’ by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, concluded that poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.
At any one moment, here in the UK, 1 in 4 employees is suffering from at least one psychiatric disorder. Like most health issues, these difficulties are on a spectrum with some more noticeable, some more limiting and some more damaging than others – rather like physical health issues.
Employers, and in particular managers, play a key role in supporting the mental as well as the physical well-being of their team members. A healthy managers’ approach can create a supportive, non-judgmental ethos within the team allowing team members to flourish.
Case Study 1
Two years ago I ran some training for the senior leadership team of an international pharmaceutical company. Part-way through the training one of the managers (whom up to this point had been noticeably disengaged) started ranting about how awful his team were. He said there was no enthusiasm, no team spirit, minimal effort and a significant lack of engagement. He went on to say that he couldn’t see how a bit of mental health training could possibly address the issues that he was facing.
Some months later I returned to run mental health awareness and wellbeing training for the staff. Upon my arrival, the HR Director came to see me. She asked me if I remembered the manager mentioned above and went on to say that during my training session he had realised that he himself was suffering with some mental health issues. He shared these with HR who then supported him. With their support and the intervention of medical professionals, less than six months later the same manager was now thriving and his team were recognised as one of the most productive and engaged in the company.
This case study is a classic example of presenteeism. The manager concerned was at work when he really wasn’t in the best of health. This is common among managers who feel the weight of responsibility in their role – they don’t want to let the company or their team down so they just push through expecting that things will sort themselves out. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t and the results then can be quite dramatic (albeit well hidden) for the company.
This manager’s personal difficulties had a direct impact on the engagement and productivity of his team, and therefore, the profitability of the company. Presenteeism is not a problem confined to managers though. Many staff will come to work when they are not best equipped to do so. This has a negative impact on their own work and on the work, mood and engagement of their colleagues.
Early identification of issues saves time and money improving results, employee wellbeing and employee engagement.
Mental Health training for managers can improve occupational outcomes for people with mental health problems. Providing managers with the knowledge, competence and confidence to spot mental health disorders in their teams, and know how to take appropriate action, is vital for performance and productivity.
Without this knowledge managers find it much harder to identify mental health issues within their teams and therefore, cannot take early intervention. What can start out as someone feeling overwhelmed, struggling to sleep and finding it hard to switch off, can spiral very quickly into anxiety and depression.
Case Study 2
Early last year I ran my mental health awareness and wellbeing training for managers of a large manufacturing company. This company has offices in different locations throughout the UK.
I was surprised to see a female manager attending my course for a second time only a couple of months after the first session. I joked about it when I saw her…. “hello again, didn’t you get enough of me the first time around”?
She said she had come back to reinforce her knowledge because the day after her previous training she had become involved with a suicidal employee. She credited my training with giving her the knowledge and confidence to handle the situation thus saving the life of her colleague.
This has been the pinnacle of my career so far.
Mental health awareness training is often not seen as much of a priority against other forms of health and safety or absence management training because a lot of it goes under the radar.
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) advocate that “organisations should support employees experiencing or recovering from mental health issues and make adjustments to ensure people with a mental health issue can thrive and make a positive contribution at work.”
They say that investing in management training for employee well-being is not only the right thing to do, but it also enhances employee engagement and productivity, which in turn supports business growth.
Case Study 3
A recent study funded by the New South Wales Health and Employers Mutual showed this….
They took 128 managers within a large Australian Fire & Rescue Service and randomly selected approximately half to receive mental health awareness training thus forming two groups – the trained group and the control group.
Sickness absence rates of supervisors and employees under the care of these managers was then monitored for six months.
The outcome of this study showed that a four-hour manager mental health training programme could lead to a significant reduction in work-related sickness absence, with an associated return on investment of £9.98 for each pound spent on such training.
This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12613001156774).
There is still stigma and misunderstanding about mental health in society and the workplace. This is largely due to a lack of sufficient education in this area.
Increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce can help break the silence and start to build a more open and inclusive culture.
It’s not that managers are expected to become mini therapists, but rather that they need to feel confident and competent to have conversations with staff about sensitive issues like mental health. They should also be able to signpost to specialist sources of support if necessary (HR should ensure that employees know how to access the support provided by the organisation even if they don’t wish to disclose an issue to their manager).
It is my belief that in the future, prospective employees will look to see if a company is a ‘Time to Change’ employer – in much the same way that the ‘Investors in People’ award was significant in the past.
Running mental health awareness and wellbeing training makes sense at every level
• It reduces absenteeism
• It reduces presenteeism
• It increases staff (and management) wellbeing
• It increases staff (and management) engagement
• It increases productivity
• Bottom line - it improves results (The FTSE 100 companies who do this consistently
outperform the others by 10%)