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The Thriving at Work report has just been published and makes for shocking reading. In January 2017 the Prime Minister requested an independent review into how employers can better support all individuals currently in employment, including those with mental ill health or poor well-being to remain in and thrive through work.

The study has led to the conclusion that underneath the stigma that surrounds mental health and prevents open discussion on the subject, the UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work. While there are more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, 300,000 people with a long term mental health problem lose their jobs each year – and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions. Behind this, the analysis shows that around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition.

The human cost is huge, with poor mental health having an impact on the lives of many individuals and those around them. This manifests itself in a variety of ways both at work and at home, and impacts a person’s ability to manage other elements of their personal life. Then there is the ultimate human cost of loss of life through suicide. Rates of poor mental health and suicide are higher for employees in certain industries. With the help of an independent study on the cost to employers commissioned from Deloitte, this latest study also found:

  • There is a vast annual cost to employers of £33-42 billion, with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work, with additional costs from sickness absence and staff turnover
  • The cost of poor mental health to the Government is £24-27 billion. This includes costs in providing benefits, falls in tax revenue and costs to the NHS
  • The cost of poor mental health to the economy as a whole is more than both of those together from lost output, at £74-£99 billion per year. At a time when there is a national focus on productivity, the inescapable conclusion is that it is in the interest of both employers and the Government to prioritise and invest far more in improving mental health.

The UK can ill-afford the productivity cost of this poor mental health. It could be argued that these costs are the ‘normal’ costs of being alive and doing business. The study work strongly suggests that this is not the case.

Deloitte’s analysis of case studies where investments have been made in improving mental health show a consistently positive return on investment. This finding is bolstered by a number of academic studies which demonstrate the benefits of good work for mental health and key workplace enablers. As the review went to press, the Lancet also published findings from a study in the Australian Fire Service which found that a manager mental health training programme could lead to a significant reduction in work-related sickness absence, with a return on investment of nearly £10 for each £1 spent on such training.

Moving forward

The correct way to view mental health is that we all have it and we fluctuate between thriving, struggling and being ill and possibly off work. We need to move to a society where all of us become more aware of our own and other people’s mental health; and how to cope with our own and other people’s mental health when it fluctuates. It is all our responsibilities to make this change. Do employers have the ability to have the greatest impact and scope to make an impact? Can employers create a positive and supportive workplace culture themselves, free from stigma?

You can read the full report here and if you’d like to discuss how to help your staff and your business to thrive, click here to email me or call me on 07752 518 925.

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