A Government commissioned report released today (26th November 2016), found that the UK is facing a much larger mental health challenge in the workplace than thought. Mental health can affect people in many ways, but impacts the lives of many and those around them. The report highlights the human cost is huge and "there are also knock on impacts for society, the economy and Government". In fact, it is estimated that the poor mental health costs the UK economy £99bn annually and employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year.
It is estimated that around 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, with 300,000 people with a long term mental problem, loosing their jobs each year. Of which, this is a significantly higher rate than those with a physical health condition.
A report produced by Deloitte looked at the variation in costs across different sectors. It was estimated that the cost per employee (costs to employers of presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover due to mental health problems) were higher in the public sector (£1,551-£1,878) per year than in the private sector (£1,119-£1,481). Moreover, that industries such as finance and insurance had a higher cost than retail and leisure sectors. Deloitte examined existing workplace interventions, finding the potential to generate a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested.
Farmer and Stevenson, who authored the report, want employers to introduce 6 core standards:
- Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan
- Develop mental health awareness among employees
- Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling
- Provide employees with good working conditions
- Promote effective people management
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and well being
Whilst a lot of work has been done around reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace and increasing examples of good work place practice, for many employers, it is still unclear what they can do to help.
The report outlines 40 recommendations around the following core topics: The importance of transparency and leadership, external support for employers and the role of regulators, the public sectors involvement, the governments involvement and the implementation and delivery.
The week commencing 18th September saw #EventWell17.
The week was the Event Industry's first official national well-being week, following a survey which found that a career as an event co-ordinator was cited the fifth most stressful job in the UK.
The HSE define work-related stress as a "harmful reaction that people have to endure pressures and demands placed on them at work". It is reported that 1.3 million people have suffered from workplace stress, whereby 45% of lost work days have been attributed to stress.
Although being highlighted considerably more, there remains a stigma. A study revealed 24.5% felt the need to keep the fact they were stressed to themselves. Nonetheless, long term stress can lead to physical health problems and so employers should take addressing incidences of stress seriously.
The IAM has been a supporter of many other national weeks around stress and well-being and with many administrative professionals increasingly being asked to organise events as part of their role, we wanted to show our support for EventWell (You can see other EventWell supporters here).
You might be interested in some of the pieces we made available in support for the week
Stress in the workplace is a financially destructive insidious force for employers and for employees robs them of the job of living and can cause ill health. Francis from Working For Wellbeing explains that unchecked, it robs employees of their creativity, innovation and motivation. However with a very low expenditure of resources it is avoidable.
If you are an employer you can choose to ignore the loss of profit, but, by law you have a legal obligation to protect the health and safety of your employees and that includes their mental wellbeing.
If you are an employee, stress can have a serious impact on your health, happiness and family life.
Stress robs us all of the job of life.
Working for Wellbeing share 10 top tips for easing stress:
- Learn to say no. Not easy, but it can be done. If you are overwhelmed, let your boss know that your day is full and ask which tasks to prioritise.
- Take regular breaks. We actually achieve more by switching our attention from active to relaxed and back again, even if it's just for a few minutes.
- Take 10 deep breathes. This allows your brain to receive more oxygen.
- Take a walk. Try walking that little bit further, use the stairs, even move the rubbish bin somewhere where you have to get up from your desk to walk to it.
- Stretch. Yogis know that when we are physically flexible, we are more able to go with the flow mentally and emotionally.
- Learn a quick-fix tapping routine. Thought Field Therapy (or Tapping as it's commonly known) is an incredible way to reduce the Cortisol levels that stress creates very quickly.
- Dream. Shut your eyes for a single minute and imagine that you are in your favourite place...see it, hear it, smell it, taste it and feel you are there.
- Don't skip lunch. Your brain can't function rationally when you are hungry.
- Have a glass of water. Your brain needs to be hydrated.
- Listen to a good piece of music. Binaural music is a great way of relaxing the brain from Beta to the far more creative Theta state.
Francis from Working For Wellbeing tells us some ways to try and help make sure that happy employees, remain happy....
When you learn that it is a proven fact that "happy people are more productive" and that successful corporations like Google and Ernst Young agree, you must think "why isn't every employer taking notice of this? Is it because of disbelief of the evidence or lack of understanding, by the board members, of the huge benefits to be had, or a cultural thing where we don't like change?
Change threatens the status quo, or risks promotion opportunity or is viewed as a waste of time because "this is how we've always done it" attitude.
I'm sure we can all relate to the feeling of "I'm going to do that" when we leave a motivational talk, or have been inspired by learning some new methodology for improving our working lives, only to find as every day pressures slowly sap the zeal from us. Or even if we implement changes, as soon as we stop championing them they whither and drop away. Do we learn to become sanguine about the situation or should we seek to find ways that help us to improve working lives?
In every aspect of life, written and unwritten rules define our social existence. These rules started an idea and grew to be accepted behaviours. Therefore frameworks must exist for "new and improved" versions. So how can we permanently capitalise on the knowledge that "happy people are more productive".
In 2015 Economists Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi, from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick carried out four different types of experiments on 700 participants, they tested the idea that happy employees work harder. The results indicated, happiness made people about 12 percent more productive. "Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off" says Oswald. "The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality", adds Sgroi.
Proto quoted "We have shown that happier subjects are more productive, the same pattern appears in four different experiments. This research will provide some guidance for management in all kinds of organizations, they should strive to make their workplace emotionally healthy for their workforce". Sceptics could say "ah but laboratory testing has little relevance to the everyday working environments; where live conditions represent different pressures to individuals. They have a point. As humans our individual social history dictates the pressures we find stimulating or uncomfortable. Whereas in the laboratory, experiments are usually designed to measure set criteria and exclude any variable that could influence the results.
However in the report quotes from the real world of operating very successful businesses included...
"At google, we know that health, family and wellbeing are an important aspect of Googlers' lives. We have also noticed that employees who are happy demonstrate increased motivation...[we]... work to ensure that Google is...an emotionally healthy place to work" (Lara Harding, People Programs Manager, Google).
"Supporting our people must begin at the most fundamental level - their physical and mental health and well-being. It is only from strong foundations that they can handle...complex issues" (Matthew Thomas, Manager - Employee Relationships, Ernst And Young).
If, you like me, are fire up with evidence-based information like this, you may think of how you can help your co-workers become happier and your corporation more productive in a sustainable way. Obviously for any intention to become one of the rules we live by, requires dedication and ownership, preferably by a group of stakeholders.
For the idea of sustainability increasing employee happiness to transition into extra productivity we have to accept that the employee must maintain the emotion. To do this a mixture of increasing benefits and decreasing the pressures that cause unhappiness must be managed.
As a simple internal step you could start with a SWOT analysis, which could look like this:
Strengths: The research and evidence from Google demonstrate positive advantages for the employees wellbeing and the corporations bottom line.
Weakness: Do we have qualified expertise to manage the process? If not where do we obtain this. Do we know what the negative pressures are? Can we measure where we are and what affect any remedial actions have?
Opportunity: Better return on Investment through increase in reasons for employee retention, lower absence levels, increase in profit and lower threat of employee litigation. Higher staff morale. A more efficient corporation is better placed to seize opportunity in the market place.
Threats: Waste of resources if not managed to fruition. Unless designed and managed by qualified people it is likely to yield a low return on investment.
If you have got this far and are still with me, you may be wondering although this information is really useful, what does it have to do with establishing good intentions? It's this, for rules to become socially accepted they must be both inspiring and inclusive.
I would suggest you recruit like-minded colleagues and produce an action place to establish the process, which should aim to be more important than any individual involved and become self-perpetuating. This could be one of the most significant undertakings that you perform, in terms of improving happiness and well-being for every individual and a contribution to a more efficient corporation.
This post was published to show the IAM's support (partners & supporters) for EventWell17 week. The Event Industries first national wellbeing week.