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mental health

Employers need to be disability confident, as reporting likely to become mandatory

Employers currently voluntarily report information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – however the Government has consulted on making this mandatory, with the outcome due imminently.

Employers need to be ready for this change, and play their part in closing the disability employment gap within their own business, says GRiD, the industry body for group risk.  

Employers have been increasingly prioritising the health and wellbeing of their people, but this needs to go further, with more focus on supporting those with long-term health conditions and disabilities to enter and stay in the business.

The number of disabled people in employment
The Government’s manifesto commitment to increase the number of disabled people in employment by one million by 2027 has been achieved five years early: latest ONS figures show that between Q1, 2017 and Q1, 2022 the number of disabled people in employment increased by 1.3 million(1).

Overall, 4.8 million disabled people were employed in Q1 2022(1). However, in practice this means that only 54% of people with disabilities are employed, compared with 82% of people without disabilities(2). 

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson, Group Risk Development (GRiD) said: “The fact that the target to employ more people with a disability was achieved five years early could indicate it wasn’t ambitious enough. More is likely to be expected of employers, and they’ll need to deliver.”

What employers need to do
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments(3) to support disabled job applicants and employees. This includes ensuring they can overcome substantial disadvantages in applying for, or doing, a job and progressing in work. 

Many adjustments are easy to implement, and may cost little or nothing. This might include making changes to working patterns, providing parking, ensuring information is accessible, modifying recruitment processes or by allowing extra time for tests and assessments.

Employees themselves can get financial support through Access to Work(4) for extra costs they have at work because of their disability or long-term health condition. This might include adapting equipment to make it easier to use or money for travel costs if they can’t use public transport, etc.

Benefits to employers
Ensuring employees are aware of available support not only helps businesses hire disabled people with the skills they need, but it also helps them retain employees who develop a long-term health condition or disability while in employment. This keeps skills and knowledge in the business, saving time and expense in recruitment. 

Vitally, this also sends a clear message to other staff, that the business takes the health and wellbeing of their workforce seriously – and this has great benefits to wider business objectives.

Moxham continued: “This will be a new area for many companies, but it comes with a huge benefit: it opens up a previously unconsidered pool of highly motivated candidates offering the talent, skills and potential that all businesses need, particularly right now in this time of high employment.”

Utilise employee benefits effectively
Employers will find a great deal of help within their employee benefits package that supports employees already in work who develop a long-term health condition or disability, and GRiD is encouraging all to investigate what’s available.

Moxham concluded: “For example, group income protection policies provide long-term sick pay, and they also include access to help from vocational rehabilitation specialists, along with advice and support on making reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act. And it’s not unusual for insurers to help with extra costs to keep someone in work on an ex gratia basis, such as providing equipment.”

Employers need to be aware of what they need to do to meet the likely changes in reporting. The government’s Disability Confident scheme(5) is a good place to start, which is designed to help employers consider how to improve how they attract, recruit and retain workers with a disability or long-term health condition.

How the disability employment gap is calculated

The disability employment gap is calculated by comparing the percentage of people with and without disabilities who are in employment. In Q1 2022, the disability employment gap was 28.2 percentage points – a decrease of 0.2 percentage points on the year, and an overall decrease of 5.6 percentage points since the same quarter in 2014.1 

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-hits-goal-to-see-a-million-more-disabled-people-in-work#:~:text=The%20disability%20employment%20gap%20was,the%20same%20quarter%20in%202014.
2.https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/datasets/labourmarketstatusofdisabledpeoplea08
3. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/part/2/chapter/2/crossheading/adjustments-for-disabled-persons
4. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-guide-for-employers/access-to-work-factsheet-for-employers
5. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/disability-confident-campaign

How to support the mental health of employees that work remotely

By Tanya Woolf, Head of Psychological Services at Onebright

Remote working has presented challenges for companies of all sizes. Regardless of the size of a company, one thing that remains true is that fostering connection and camaraderie remains key to a healthy and productive working environment, especially with workforces more evenly split between the office and home. For those who need to work remotely, random office chats are missed out on, which can often result in a distinct feeling of loneliness and a struggle to maintain motivation at a distance.

This makes regular mental health check-ins more critical than ever before. When workers feel psychologically safe to express their emotions no matter where they are working from, it will help to set a cultural foundation that will encourage and motivate them to perform to the best of their ability, as well as creating a happier and more productive workplace culture.

Not only will this benefit the mental wellbeing of your workforce, but it can also have a notable financial impact on your business. For every £1 spent supporting the mental health of your workers, you will get £5 back on your investment on average in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

What signs of loneliness do I need to look out for?

Withdrawing from interaction

When an employee begins to withdraw from consistent interaction, this is the first clear sign that they are beginning to struggle, perhaps feeling isolated or lonely. If a remote worker suddenly stops offering suggestions or participating in goal setting, they might be feeling disconnected from the team.

Missing deadlines

If a usually dependable team member starts turning in sloppy work or begins missing deadlines when working remotely, this is another good indication that they may be beginning to experience difficulties, which may include feeling disconnected or lonely.

How can I best support my remote employees?

Consistent communication

That first step that you can as an employer to help support the mental health of those working remotely is to put processes in place that facilitate meaningful, consistent communication. This can be difficult, given that it is unlikely that you will see every employee every day, especially those working remotely.

This is where signs of an employee struggling can fly under the radar for a long time. However, when managers can demonstrate their awareness and understanding of how commonplace conditions such as anxiety and depression can be, this can remove part of the stress of trying to hide the problem on those occasions when someone checks in. It may feel uncomfortable at first and even more unfamiliar in a virtual setting. Still, leaders who can talk about and show a broad spectrum of emotions are role models for healthy behaviours.

Mental health awareness training

Undertaking mental health awareness training will help to equip you with the skills and knowledge to help people better manage potential or developing mental health problems in themselves, their teams, and colleagues. As our working situations evolve, so do expectations of how employers should support their people. Employers who seek guidance from mental health experts are better able to meet the demands of the modern employee. 

Mindfulness training

Mindfulness is a state of heightened awareness of yourself, your environment, and other people. Being mindful means you are very aware of your thoughts and feelings, but you do not react or judge them. One study has measured the relationship between mindfulness amongst management teams and their employees; it showed that as mindfulness increased, employee work-related stress improved work-life balance and enhanced engagement. 

Online mental health therapy

Finally, with waiting times for public mental health services at an all-time high, business leaders should look to provide their workforces with the option of easily accessible, online mental health therapy services as a fast and efficient first step to help those who need support.

Recent studies have found that when combined with clinical care, online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can effectively treat depression, anxiety, and emotional distress, whilst many other studies have also demonstrated that online CBT is equally as effective at reducing the severity of depression symptoms as in-person CBT.

Wellbeing in the Workplace: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Stress has become one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns. April sees the return of Stress Awareness Month, now in its 30th year, to help increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, around 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Whether work-related or personal, stress can place demands on both the physical and mental health of employees with symptoms influencing their behaviour, relationships with colleagues and performance.

Stress is often a leading cause of work absences and 2019 alone saw over 602,000 cases of work-related stress and anxiety in the UK. Stress affects everyone, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s a human response to the stressors and strains of modern life. But what causes it and how can we spot it within the workplace?

Causes

Stress in the workplace isn’t always caused by one singular event or incident, it can often be a culmination of day-to-day stressors that build up over time into a more sustained period of stress. Some key stressors include;

  • excessive workload and/or unrealistic deadlines 
  • poor work/life balance
  • difficulties maintaining relationships with colleagues
  • lack of control over how to complete a job 
  • lack of support and information to complete tasks
  • being unclear of job role and responsibilities

It is worth noting that stress affects everyone differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving the issue. Individual factors such as skills, experience, age, disability, tolerance and personality may all have an impact on someone’s ability to deal with stressors.  

Symptoms 

Stress isn’t always easy to diagnose due to its wide-ranging impact on both physical and mental health which means it can be expressed in a variety of ways. Physically, long-term stress can increase the likelihood of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, immunosuppression, insomnia, headaches and much more which left untreated or managed can cause complications later in life. 

Mentally, a simple sign of stress is ‘Brain Fog’ which is often described as a cloudy or muddled feeling, it is mainly characterised by confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity. However, some key symptom indicators in the workplace could be identified by;

  • Performance at Work;
    • Declining performance
    • Unexpected errors
    • Loss of motivation or commitment
    • Memory lapses
    • Lack of interaction 
    • Arriving late / leaving early 
  • Behaviour Changes
    • Irritable/moodiness
    • Over-reactionary
    • Argumentative/temperamental
    • Noticeable mood swings 
    • Overly critical 
    • Clashes with colleagues

The Knock-On Effect

Alongside the individual effects, stress and mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost every year, costing over £40bn to the economy, highlighting the importance of employers taking stock of the impact that work, demands, deadlines, support (or lack thereof), and much more has on an individual. 

To help support you and your colleagues, hero has a range of engaging and thought-provoking packages available to identify and understand stressors, and work to help prevent stress in the future:

Mental Resilience Programme

  • Webinar 30mins + Q&A (£600)
  • Digital Workshop – <90mins (£800)
  • Physical Activity Webinar – 20 mins (£150)
  • Full Package (£1,495 + VAT)

Sessions can include; Introduction to Wellbeing, Mental Health Awareness, Positive Mindset, Better Sleep, Understanding Stress, Winter Wellbeing, Brain Health, Power of the Breath, Positive Psychology, Food & Mood, Movement for Mood, Mindfulness, Managing Anxiety, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, Post-Pandemic Resilience, Seasonal Affective Disorder

With access to hero’s award-winning whole-person health wellbeing platform, Navigator, your team will gain access to evidence-based, research-led solutions and resources. For more information please get in touch with hero.

Two-thirds of employers feel a greater responsibility for the mental wellbeing of staff as a result of Covid-19

Employers feel a greater responsibility for supporting staff across the four key areas of mental, physical, social, and financial wellbeing as a result of Covid-19.

That’s according to research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector – in a study conducted from 14 – 26 January 2022 amongst 501 HR decision-makers, it found that:

·       59% of employers felt an increased responsibility for supporting the mental wellbeing of staff

·       57% felt the same increased responsibility for physical wellbeing

·       56% of employers felt an increased responsibility for supporting the social wellbeing of staff

·       and 50% also felt the same increased responsibility for their employees’ financial wellbeing

In light of the pandemic, and this sentiment to take greater responsibility for employee wellbeing, two fifths (40%) of employers increased their communication about the support available to staff. Thirty-four per cent encouraged engagement and utilisation of support, and just over a quarter (27%) said that they had made it easier for employees to access support and benefits remotely, such as via apps and online. A quarter extended support beyond the individual employee to include family members, and 22% invested in new employee benefits to provide extra support.

Employees report deterioration in wellness

Further GRiD research, conducted amongst 1,212 UK workers between 14-18 January 2022, highlights the fact that employers were correct to take steps to provide and communicate support and benefits to staff. Thirty-eight percent of employees stated that their mental health had deteriorated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, 27% saw their physical health deteriorate and a further 27% had concerns about their financial health.

Forty-two percent of employees expect more support from their employers to help them cope. This employee presumption means employers need to assess whether their current employee benefits are up to the task of getting the wellbeing of staff back on track. Many staff are anticipating that their employers will provide on this front, and employers would do well to deliver, particularly in light of how employees feel their health has deteriorated .

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “As is evident in the research, employees feel most vulnerable in terms of their mental wellbeing, and employers have rightly assessed this as being an area in which they can step up and take more responsibility. However, employers should be wary of solely prioritising one area of wellbeing over another.

Mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing are inextricably linked and so employers must address all four areas when providing post-pandemic support for staff. Employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness have proven really popular because they provide financial support when people have been directly affected by the pandemic, as well as extra embedded services designed to support health and wellbeing. 

“As the UK adjusts to the new norms of working life, adopting this holistic approach to staff wellbeing will ensure that all employees are as well-looked after as possible, and this will have long-term benefits for the business too.”

How can happy employees make for more productive workers?

The well-being of employees is crucial. Improper care for staff can impact their performance and can have harmful effects within a company. The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) conducted research in 2020 demonstrating that reduced labour activity can occur as a result of high stress. Case studies also showed that workplace wellness programmes can result in increased productivity.

So, producing strategies can benefit both the employees and businesses by ensuring that their needs are met. Here, we’ll explore some of the ways that businesses can safeguard their staff.

Implementing safety measures

There are many risks in workplaces, especially relating to physical safety. Between 2017-2018, it was reported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that 1.4 million people suffered from work-related illnesses in the UK. As a result, the economy suffered a loss of £15 billion.

High quality working conditions are important to ensure the safety of employees, this includes regular monitoring of equipment. Damage to tools can reduce worker efficiency and could even risk injuring the employee. So it’s important that equipment checks are carried out on a routine basis.

Statistics from the HSE have revealed that between 2018-2021 the number of non-fatal injuries within the construction industry was an average of 61,000 each year. There were also 39 fatal injuries in 2020-2021. With the benefit of protecting staff, the business also can ensure that the site is allowing room for productivity so work is being completed with no issues.

Without physical safety checks there could be many dangerous situations – particularly in industries like construction. These circumstances can impact their health, so they may have to be absent from work. Not only would this affect the business, but it also could have harmful effects on the worker, causing stress from time off work. In 2020, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) discovered through case studies that 97% of construction industry professionals had reported high levels of stress. When the employee is eventually fit to work again an injury might have a lasting effect on work and lead to reduced productivity levels.

Recognising essential amenities

Several physical needs can have an impact on our mental state, which is why onsite toilet hire for e.g. construction workers is necessary. Providing employees with this reduces the likelihood of distraction and ensures that staff are comfortable and completing work to a high standard.

Water supply can be insufficient at times. Whether this be for hydration or cleanliness, this is essential to ensure that workers’ well-being is maintained. Especially in summer, dehydration among workers can lead to reduced productivity or illness. Making sure that employees are being cared for with suitable amenities ensures that they stay healthy in the workplace.

Acknowledging mental health issues

The physical well-being of workers is not the only area to consider, it is important to maintain their mental well-being too.

Monitoring workload can be a simple way to ensure that your employees’ mental well-being is not being negatively affected. Concerns over disciplinary action may cause individuals to hide their issues with work, which could lead to mental health issues. Working whilst ill and absent workers are two issues that annually cost the UK £73 billion. Improving staff well-being can reduce this by creating a comfortable working environment for employees to devote themselves to the company.

Simply encouraging workers to openly discuss their mental health can improve well-being significantly. Although some employees may feel anxious at the thought of revealing their issues, promoting awareness in the workplace can create a safer environment. This transparency can lead to open discussions to provide solutions and improved well-being.

Research by Forbes shows that employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Feeling the benefits of a caring employer has a clear positive impact on productivity levels. The construction industry is known for lack of support for the workers, so applying support strategies may set an important example.

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the need to improve the well-being of workers. However, there is always room for improvement, which in turn can positively impact both employees and the business. By implementing simple strategies to care for staff, companies could see an improvement in their business’ productivity.

Wellbeing in the Workplace: Time to start counting sheep!

Sleep. It’s something we spend a third of our life doing, but why is it important for workplace wellbeing? As technology has advanced and attention spans have dwindled, combined with the 24/7 “always on” culture in today’s modern society, sleep has never before been pushed so far down the pecking order in terms of importance.

Sleep is crucial for the core functionality and efficiency of the human body and without enough of it, it can cause serious and lasting health complications. It’s important that employers realise the impact that work, demands, deadlines, support (or lack thereof), and much more has on an individual’s sleep, and that more can always be done to sufficiently support their colleagues.

Physical Complications

Put simply, a lack of sleep can have an extremely negative effect on the body. Physically, poor sleep health can also put the body at a higher risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes. Not to mention that sleeping less can lead to weight gain due to reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone). Poor sleep also has a detrimental effect on the immune system, putting the body at greater risk of infections, bugs and common viruses.

Mentally, a lack of sleep can cause the brain to fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions, making work and completing simple tasks harder and taking longer to complete. The risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases. It can also cause employees to feel fatigued, short tempered, and irritable. Chronic sleep debt may also lead to long-term mood disorders like clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder in adults.

Employee Performance

Therefore, whether the workforce within your business is manual, physical or office-based, a lack of sleep can could present itself in different ways, however, it is likely to be more noticeable at work while the brain is under more strain to perform, some key indicators could be:

  • Decreased communication 
  • Performance deterioration
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased caffeine intake
  • Greater risk-taking behaviour
  • Increased number of errors
  • Poor mood and/or appropriate behaviour
  • Poor cognitive assimilation and memory
  • Increased sickness/absences 

Knock-On Effects

The health complications associated with poor sleep health can lead to a significant impact on business performance too. According to RAND Europe, 200,000 working days are lost each year due to sleep-related absences, costing the economy around £40bn each year – equivalent to 1.86% of GDP.

With access to hero’s award-winning wellbeing platform, Navigator, your team will gain access to evidence-based, research-led solutions, including advice from sleep experts and a wealth of resources, to help provide a positive impact on staff. For more information please get in touch with hero.

workplace mental health – more important than ever before?

By Claire Price, QMS International

Mental illness has risen to be a leading cause of workplace illness, pushing it to the top of the health & safety agenda. But what exactly is the scale of the issue, and more importantly, what can employers do to promote positive mental health & well-being in the workplace?

In the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) 2020/21 report for health & safety statistics at work, the scale of poor mental health and well-being in the workplace was revealed.

According to its statistics, 50% all cases of new and long-standing work-related ill health were a product of stress, depression or anxiety, making these mental health conditions the leading causes of work-related illness during 2020/21, mirroring the results found the previous year. In total, this means that 822,000 workers were reported to be stressed, anxious or depressed as a result of work in 2020/21.

Over the last few years this figure has been steadily growing – an upward trend that is likely to continue. The pandemic has undoubtedly worsened this. According to the Employee well-being during a pandemic: Global insights for health and safety at work report by Lloyds Register in 2020, stress increased dramatically during the initial COVID-19 breakout with 70% of those questioned reporting an increase in work-related stress during the period of March to December 2020. This was linked to employee shortages due to sickness, redundancy or furlough, which ramped up the workloads of those who remained.

Remote working, while positive for some, also caused feelings of isolation in others. Indeed, the Lloyds report revealed that 17% of those surveyed felt alone while a significant 48.4% stated that their working lives had become worse since being forced to work remotely.

With 17.9 million working days being lost in 2019/20 due to stress, anxiety and depression, there is certainly a clear motive for employers to act. Many workers felt unsupported during the first year of the pandemic (just 15% of those questioned in the Lloyds report said that they were given resources on well-being), which demonstrates that there is a clear gap that employers need to fill if they are truly to keep their workers happy, healthy and safe.

Establishing the psychosocial risks
If you want to do something to support the mental health of your employees you first need to establish the workplace risk factors for mental ill health, otherwise known as psychosocial risks.

Psychosocial risks are essentially anything that can affect a worker’s psychological response to their job role or working conditions. Typical psychosocial risks can include:

  • large workloads
  • pressured deadlines
  • a lack of worker control
  • monotony
  • a lack of rewards

To begin to establish the psychosocial risks for your workplace, start by looking at your employee sick leave records. Trends for illnesses such as headaches or musculoskeletal disorders (which can be the result of tension from stress) are typical red flags. Any logs for psychological injury or illness should also be noted.

Other records you may like to examine include grievance records, overtime logs and meeting minutes, which may include mention of heavy workloads, job role changes or a request for more support.

It’s important to engage your employees at this stage too. A survey could be particularly helpful if your staff work remotely. It’s also worthwhile taking a walk around your organisation if your employees are on site. Are there understaffed areas, signs of illness such as colds, or people who seem irritable or frustrated? All of these can be the result of psychosocial risks.

Once you have a list of risks for your workplace, prioritise them by listing the consequences and their likelihood of occurrence.

Implementing solutions
Once you have a prioritised list of psychosocial risks you can begin to develop controls to mitigate or remove them. For instance, you may need to re-evaluate workloads or shift patterns, hire additional staff or offer training.

Good communication is also vital. A common complaint in the Lloyds report was that employers did not provide support materials for mental health and well-being, so make sure that these are offered. You may want to download and use materials from a mental health charity to help you.

It can also be useful to train a team of mental health first aiders. Mental health first aiders are trained to recognise the signs of mental illness and can signpost colleagues to relevant support, such as the GP, therapy or support groups. As a fellow colleague, they act as a non-judgemental listening ear and an easy-to-access port of call for those who want to talk. Their role can also help to promote workplace positivity and the reduction of stigma surrounding mental ill health.

Offering an occupational health service or employee assistance programme can be helpful for both you and your employees too. These programmes can give you and your workers access to qualified specialists for support or confidential counselling. Some schemes also run rehabilitation programmes, which can help you to bring workers back to work in a safe and timely way.

Finally, you could create a more comprehensive set of processes designed to protect your workers mental health and well-being with ISO 45003, a new Standard for psychological health & safety at work.

This Standard is designed to help employers identify the conditions and workplace demands that could affect the psychological health and well-being of workers and develop processes that can manage these risks.

This helps organisations create a more positive workplace and build resilience and productivity. With the right processes in place, employers can also work towards reducing absences as a result of mental ill health. The Standard also features guidelines for modern ways of working, such as remote or hybrid workplaces, which means that employers can create strong processes that also protect workers who don’t work in the organisation’s buildings or during office hours.

Analyse and reflect
Once you have found your workplace’s psychosocial risks and created controls for them, you need to ensure that they are effective. Indicators of effectiveness include a reduction of workplace accidents or absences, reduced work hours or overtime, or positive feedback from staff surveys.

Work-related mental illness is already a significant issue and is very unlikely to diminish any time soon. By implementing effective solutions now, you can work to ensure that your organisation offers workers the support they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently, rewarding your business with greater productivity and a workforce with great morale.

QMS International is one of the UK’s leading ISO certification providers.

Mental and Social Health Recognition and Support and the impact on Health and Safety

By Hero Wellbeing

The past 18 months have been a testing time for everyone and with a significant reduction in social interaction, more employers are recognising their responsibility to protect the mental health of their employees and provide a positive work environment and much of the practical implication lie within our colleague in the health and safety world. 

Mental health problems in the UK workforce cost employers almost £35 billion last year, according to research published by the Centre for Mental Health. The heightened stress that the pandemic has created has further emphasised the importance of addressing mental health concerns.

Remote working has also created a unique set of mental and social health challenges related to work-life balance and the loss of workplace belonging and social interaction. As restrictions are lifted and things return to a semblance of normality in the UK, mental health will continue to be a crucial topic for businesses to address. 

As well as the impact seen because of COVID, key challenges such as an ageing workforce and technology dependence remain within an organisation, giving even greater importance for companies to develop and implement an effective support plan and wellbeing strategy for its staff.

Mental health has long been a taboo subject, but with an increase in discourse over the course of the pandemic, it needs to become an everyday function of an organisation’s health and safety culture. Here’s some ways to do that: 

  • Provide mental health training to supervisors and managers
  • Provide employee assistance programs, community resources, and online tools – ​​ensuring they are scalable and customisable at an organisation level while still ensuring it can be tailored and personalised to the individual for maximum personal benefit
  • Keep leadership and their H&S colleagues informed of mental health concerns that could affect employees
  • Ensure workplace harassment policies and programs are in place and share information about policies and programs with employees. 

To ensure your health and wellbeing policies are fit for purpose for 2022 take our audit here and for more information about how hero can help and support you with areas of health and wellbeing; both reactive and preventative, on going strategy or training and upskilling workshops, please get in touch and book a meeting. 

Mental health support often not available to workers who need it most

There are a lot of support services that offer mental health support, however many do not cater for more complex and enduring mental health issues, such as severe depression, trauma and psychiatric disorders.

That’s according to RedArc, which says many support services are only limited to mild to moderate mental health issues, such as low mood and anxiety, for instance via apps and employee assistance programmes.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: ‘There is a world of difference in the support that people need for low mood and mild anxiety, to that needed for severe depression and other mental illnesses, and very few services address the latter. It’s great that companies are making support more accessible for mental wellbeing, but it’s vital that support is also put in place for more serious mental health conditions.’

Serious mental health conditions are not uncommon, such as PTSD, self-harm, severe depression and psychosis; and it’s vital that people who experience these are catered for by support services.

As supporting mental health and wellbeing is at the top of corporate agendas, companies are keen to make help accessible, but it’s important that they’re aware of the differences between help for mild to moderate conditions, and severe or enduring mental health issues.

Most services offer valuable ‘In the moment’ support, but if additional support is needed, it often falls short. Indeed, some services have a list of exclusions covering the more complex mental health conditions, with others it is down to the practitioner’s judgement whether they expect the issues to be resolved by the short course of counselling or CBT available.

Husbands continues: ‘Sadly, we hear of many people who have been turned away from mental health support services because their mental health condition was excluded, or that the available therapies were not judged to be appropriate. This can be incredibly detrimental and put recovery time back significantly – ironically, these are the people that need the most help. Support encompassing the full spectrum, from mild through to severe mental health conditions, must be available for all people to be fully supported.’

Support for serious mental health conditions needs to include access to long-term help from a mental health specialist as well as a course of the most appropriate therapy if needed. It needs to include:

  • Risk assessment
  • Screening using clinical tools, such as PHQ9/GAD7
  • Help with coping strategies
  • Short- and long-term goals and planning
  • Guidance on appropriate tools and resources
  • Help to access services from the NHS, or available employee benefits
  • Long-term resilience tools
  • Return-to-work support

Husbands concludes: ‘The term mental health covers a wide range of conditions and severities and is therefore very complicated, so it needs a comprehensive approach. We understand that when companies see that mental health support can be provided that they think they’ve ticked that box, but they may not appreciate that the support is quite limited in practice. We see the fall-out from that approach. Comprehensive support for more severe conditions, in addition to mild to moderate, also needs to be put in place if companies really want to give people access to the most appropriate support for them. We see some very positive results from people that have access to fuller support.’

Lack of psychological safety in work ‘could hinder inclusion initiatives’

New data reveals that over a tenth of the workforce do not want to be identified when discussing their feelings towards inclusion in the workplace, sparking concerns for the psychological safety of employees at work.

The report from Inpulse also shows that groups that wish to remain anonymous are less likely to feel positive about being themselves at work. For example,individuals who do not disclose their ethnicity feel 43% less positive about being themselves at work than those who disclose their ethnicity, individuals that don’t disclose their gender feel 14% less positive about being themselves at work than those who reveal their gender and individuals that don’t disclose their disability status feel 18% less positive than those who disclose their ability status.

According to Inpulse, these statistics highlight a cultural concern for employers around the psychological safety they are creating for their employees within diversity and inclusion initiatives. They warn that organisations must help their employees feel more comfortable about talking openly about their experiences or risk being unable to identify the groups and areas that need most support. 

Matt Stephens, CEO of Inpulse, said: “Creating psychological safety is essential for successful D&I and engagement strategies so that employees feel comfortable expressing their true concerns so employers can accurately target issues that stifle their employees’ achievements and wellbeing. 

“If there’s a strong belief among employees that they will be punished or embarrassed for speaking openly with their ideas, questions and concerns, then there is a real problem with the psychological safety of employees. 

“However, the fact that 1 in ten workers feels this way is particularly concerning. When an emotion is felt by more than 10% of the workforce, this is the point in which it becomes dominant within a culture and can be felt strongly by others in the group – potentially negatively impacting business performance.”

Emphasising the problem further, Inpulse’s survey reveals that while many employees agree that their organisation is inclusive, they are less likely to agree that this is due to encouragement from their employer. On average, 80% agreed that the culture within the organisation is inclusive to all, regardless of differences; however, just 69% agreed that their organisation encourages diversity and inclusion.

To improve their D&I strategies, Inpulse provides five ways employers can develop psychological safety for employees:

1. Quash negativity

Negativity can be as contagious as positivity, therefore leaders must address negative attitudes before they begin to create psychological safety at work. For example, if people hear a colleague speaking badly of a team member then they may worry the person will do the same to them. Leaders should tackle negativity by giving constructive feedback to negative colleagues and counteracting it with a warm and positive atmosphere.

2. Show empathy 

To emphasise that you truly care about employee concerns, really listen to how they are feeling. Demonstrate that you are taking their thoughts on board too by playing back to them what you have heard and thanking them for their feedback.

3. Include colleagues in decision making 

Gather input from your team and colleagues when making decisions, particularly ones that will affect them. Collaborating with others will not only produce the best outcome but will also help people feel valued and a sense of belonging.

4. Admit when you make mistakes 

Leaders must own up to their mistakes and celebrate failures as learnings. This will help team members understand that they won’t be punished for their own mistakes and also help them feel more comfortable speaking up when there are problems.

5. Promote healthy conflict 

Emphasise to your team that healthy conflict can lead to innovation, giving people permission to disagree. Ask questions in a certain way that allows people to feel that you are debating their ideas rather than judging them as a person because of their ideas. 

Data taken from employee emotion surveys conducted in 2021. For survey responses regarding whether employees feel they can be themselves at work, there were 7743 respondents. For survey responses regarding whether employees feel that the culture in their organisation is inclusive to all regardless of differences, there were 6284 respondents.

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