Did you know that nearly 13% of all sickness days taken in the UK are a result of a mental health problem? 1 in 6.8 people will experience a mental health issue as a result of work.
While poor mental health isn’t necessary a ‘taboo’ subject these days and much work has been done to identify and treat these conditions – are SMEs doing enough?
It is estimated that better support for employee’s that suffer from poor mental health could save the UK £8 billion per year. That being said, the link between mental health and health and safety at work isn’t always clear even if there have been efforts to address it.
Poor Mental Health & Workplace Safety
Stress is a major problem at work and some 11 million days are lost every year due to work-related stress however poor mental health puts others in danger too.
A lack of concentration that is common with many mental health issues can put other employee’s in danger. High levels of stress and anxiety often lead to accidents as well so there is a clear link between poor mental health and an increase risk of health and safety breaches in the workplace.
While these incidents are usually accidental they do put people at risk and this is why acting proactively is important.
How One Firm is Taking A Preventative Approach
Fletcher’s Solicitors, a firm based in the north-west of England, has been taking real strides to promote employee mental and physical well-being.
This has included flexible working, subsidised gym and yoga class memberships, awareness training on poor mental health and workshops to identify issues and coping strategies.
The results certainly show that this preventative approach works. In just 6 months the firm saw a 46% reduction in staff sickness and a 24% decrease in one-day absences from work. Clearly tackling mental health at work with a proactive approach is better than being reactive further down the line.
What Can Be Done In The Future?
So, what can be done by SMEs in the future to help promote a mentally fit working environment which in turn makes work a safer place?
Hiring an external agency is one method that some SMEs have found success with. This can help provide practical solutions and support to employee’s who are suffering from poor mental health. Many found this a better way to cope rather than talking to their employer who perhaps doesn’t have much training or experience in this area.
Aside from the steps that Fletcher’s Solicitors has taken in addition to implementing formal policies to combat mental health in the workplace (80% of IoD members said their employer didn’t have a formal mental health policy in place), creating a culture of openness around mental health at work will allow more employees to be vocal about their issues. This will help to reduce the chances of an accident occurring.
Poor mental health has a real and negative impact on health and safety and addressing these issues will contribute to a safer working environment for everyone.