Did you know that 91 million working days are lost each year in the UK, due to mental ill-health? This includes stress, depression and anxiety. This figure outweighs more than any other illnesses in the UK.
Shocking findings were revealed just last week in the “Thriving at Work Report” commissioned by Theresa May. As many as 300,000 people a year lose their jobs due to long-term mental health conditions and it’s costing the UK’s employers a huge 42 billion pounds annually.
So what are the reasons behind these worrying statistics? According to mental health campaigners, evidence suggests it is due to a lack of support and understanding from our employers.
These figures really got me thinking about how we can improve the state of the country’s mental health, particularly in the workplace.
Having recently made the move to a new company, I pondered the reasons why I chose Pro-Group. Other than the obvious reasons in terms of the role itself, a huge part of my choice came down to personal happiness. Pro seemed to follow the philosophy that a happier workforce is, indeed, a healthier and more productive one.
So where can our employers find inspiration to make the workplace happier, and hopefully, as a result, healthier?
Having been something of a self-confessed jet-setter in a previous life, my mind wondered to the rest of the world. I was interested to find out which countries are home to the happiest people and why. What could the UK learn from these countries? Could we be doing something differently? Or, thinking like a stereotypical Brit, could it simply be a matter of sunnier climes further afield that make a country a happier place to live and work?
For a nation who famously would rather talk about the weather, isn’t it time we opened up about the issues that are really getting us down? Why is mental health still such a taboo subject for us Brits?
Whilst pondering these thoughts, I came across something called “The World Happiness Report” (Yes, that’s really a thing!) It was conducted by The United Nations, and released in March this year. I wondered how closely happiness and a healthy mind are related. The report seemed to hold some answers to my questions, and some very interesting findings.
As it turns out, Norway was named the world’s happiest country. They’re sitting at the number one spot on the top twenty listed countries in the findings.
So, how did The United Nations work that one out? The results were actually measured by a number of factors, including employment, income inequality, life expectancy, public trust and social support.
Interestingly, in the wealthiest countries in the top twenty, mental health was considered an imperative factor in the personal happiness of the country’s population. More so, even, than income, employment, or physical health.
As you might expect, in all countries in the report, it was found that unhappiness could be reduced by eliminating depression and anxiety disorders.
There have recently been some interesting ideas, some as reported in the press, in terms of improving morale in the workplace.
Famous for his outlandish and often pioneering concepts, Sir Richard Branson recently announced that he would be offering his staff “unlimited annual leave”. His reasons behind this being that it would improve productivity, creativity and employee morale.
Somewhat closer to home, mentioning no names of course - we have an employee suggestion box here at Pro-Group. One idea recently pitched, was an annual “duvet day” allowance, so that staff could simply call in a rest day if they felt they really needed it.
Madness? Or a necessary progression to suit our modern times? Are these ideas something we seriously need to consider in order to improve our mental health as a nation?
Going back to the figures I mentioned earlier – mental health related issues are costing the country’s employers a massive amount each year. Bearing a large amount of the weight in responsibility of advising on these matters, are very often the UK’s HR professionals.
As a specialist recruiter in the HR market, I’m interested to find out what challenges HR professionals are facing in relation to this topic and what their recommendations would be for employers to improve the mental health of their workforce.
Let’s put our minds to some positive use and start talking about how we can resolve this issue…
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Author Isabel Harris
Bio Isabel is a Consultant specialising in HR