At cube19 we want to share insights on mental health in the workplace to raise awareness of Mental Health Week 2020.

Issues accumulate and can have a significant impact later on

Mental health in the workplace is a prominent issue for businesses and is widespread across society. In 2014, The Health Survey for England found that one in four people reported at least one mental illness diagnosis at some point in their lives. Most episodes are mild and have limited impact, but some episodes are severe and have a significant effect on the person suffering. Plus, lots of small issues can build up over time that also has a dramatic impact on people further down the road. One of the many challenges for both the employee and their employer is to spot the signs early.

According to health.com, salespeople are one of the ten professions most likely to be depressed because of work. Is this because performance is closely monitored, making failure clear and sometimes public? Maybe. Is performance tracking a common ingredient to achieving financial results and a vital tool for self-training? Definitely. 

It can be difficult for companies to strike the right balance. Making sure they get the productivity needed for a viable business but without applying too much pressure. Let’s face it, we all know of recruitment companies where pressure is the desired outcome. No matter what’s intended, one thing is clear. The negative impact of mental health has a cost to both the employee and the employer.

The result of an updated study from 2017 by the independent charity, The Centre for Mental Health, states the financial cost associated with mental health on UK businesses is an average of £1300 per employee. The breakdown of this figure reveals that the costs come in three parts:

  • £10.6 billion in sickness absence
  • £21.2 billion in reduced productivity at work, or ‘presenteeism’
  • £3.1 billion in replacing staff who leave their jobs because of their mental health

Impact on the workplace and individuals

Productivity at home and presenteeism poses a challenge today with so many working from home. Presenteeism is the desire to work longer hours, due to feelings of insecurity, but with little to know productivity increase. In fact, it’s well reported that this practice results in a significant reduction in productivity. 

Working from home creates stress due to the sudden and unexpected change of circumstance. Especially as the home might not be set-up for the same level of efficiency as purpose-built offices. The national charity mind lists two specific mental health benefits that going to work offers, ‘contact and friendship with others and a steady routine and structure’. The former is more difficult, but not impossible, to maintain when WFH. It’s difficult for most to maintain a steady routine and structure right now. One positive is that early surveys indicate an increase in productivity for those working at home, upwards of 47%.

There’s no hard and fast rule for improving productivity. Some employers have implemented twice daily catch-ups with teams who now work remote. This could have a positive effect on mental health due to the frequent human contact, but others may see this an over-management, a sign that their manager or employer doesn’t trust them, which have a chance to lead onto feelings of insecurity in their role.

Spotting the signs and knowing when to step in

Financial difficulty is one of the biggest contributors to work stress. It’s clear why we associate work with our finances, as for most it’s the primary source of income. It’s fairly ironic that attempts to improve a financial situation with more activity might be having the opposite effect. 

Studies show that long hours and missed targets play a big factor in job satisfaction. When job satisfaction is low, productivity decreases and the churn rate of staff goes up. John Gaughan, CEO of Finlay James, explains that by taking the time to spot the signs that someone is struggling and has a better chance of arresting a decline in performance.

John Gaughan raises important points around the mindset of individual employees. By spotting the signs early and starting a conversation, employers can give their staff the opportunity to open up about their problems by initiating, what for some, can be a very hard chat. 

Remember, the individual might not fully realise the impact their mental state is having on their work performance or personal life. There are alot of symptoms associated with mental health issues, they might not have acknowledged or identified any problem at all.

It’s a complicated problem but taking the above steps gives the employee and the employer a chance to talk openly about how the workplace impacts mental health, what assistance the company can offer and what outside assistance is available.