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March 23, 2017

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SMEs: changing attitudes to mental health taboos

handshake-2009183_640By Gary Ellis, Senior Consultant at CE Safety

Acknowledging, discussing and understanding mental health in the workplace was once an unspoken taboo, but as more employers and employees are educated on the complexities surrounding the subject, it is slowly becoming a topic which we are hearing a lot more of.

It is, in particular, a topic which small business owners need to be aware of, and have a clear understanding of.

On 8th January 2017, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, spoke to parliament stating that the government has “more to do” regarding mental health – including building “a new partnership with employers to support mental health in the workplace”.

There are numerous projects throughout the UK offering support to both employees and employers who have experienced mental health problems in the workplace; whether work has been a contributing factor to a person’s issues or not.

eMen, the digital mental health project launched in 2016, champions a greater understanding of mental health in the workplace and the services available through increased digital health interventions . E-mental health presents significant business opportunities, particularly for SMEs, to ensure innovative e-mental health products are readily available and accessible.

These projects have very high success records in supporting people to be effective employees in the long term.

According to mental health charity, Mind, their research confirms that an outdated culture of fear and silence around mental health in the workplace is costly to employers.

A recent study from Mind revealed that more than one in five people agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them, and 30% of staff disagreed with the statement “I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed.”

Furthermore, 56% of employers said they would like to improve staff wellbeing, but didn’t have the right training or guidance to do so.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community (BITC), believes that implanting the importance of mental health into a work culture can be a lengthy process.

She said: “The key here is about really strong leadership, making a commitment to putting mental and physical health on a parity, and providing relevant training to all employees.”

Practical advice for SMES

Small and medium businesses have a lot to gain from investing in raising awareness on workplace wellbeing. Raising awareness of mental health by encouraging employers to take mental health as seriously as physical injuries helps safeguard against hidden costs.

Mental health conditions can cost businesses through employees missing days of work, unwell workers attempting to work whilst experiencing a loss in productivity. Employers can implement cost-effective strategies designed to support workers;

  • Deliver a supportive leadership and management style to workers
  • Introduce flexible working arrangements to suit employees in need
  • Implement a management style that encourages constructive feedback, mentoring and coaching.
  • Amend the recruitment and development process to ensure all management hold the skillset to perform these skills

If you require any form of health and safety training for employees and employers in the workplace, visit CE Safety for a wide range of affordable courses offered throughout the UK.


What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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7 years ago

People with Long term health disabilities in the workplace are struggling with anxieties due to care assistant provision allocated to support them in work. Presenting problems are, unreliability and service standards. This is creating episodes of anxiety for both employer and employee and damaging good will with implementation of the equality act 2010. They rely on this assistance to support them in work. When the service beaches care contracts and leaves people without support, mental health deteriorates as they fear negative assessment by their employer, absence is increased. Employees are highlighting their desire for better standards to promote personal reliability.… Read more »