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Mental health week is always a good time to take stock of your own, and your employees’ mental health. According to mentalhealth.org, 1 in 6.8 people will experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%). Every employer has a duty of care by law to provide a safe place, whether in an office or a remote environment, to work in and that includes taking into account factors that may damage an employee’s mental health.
It can be difficult to define what mental health in the workplace (both physical and remote) can mean for people who work in finance and accounting as there is a certain amount of stress that is part and parcel with such detail-oriented roles. Some stress can be a useful motivator, however, if stress and pressure build up and are affecting an employee’s mental health, then you have a problem. Too much stress can be a drain on both physical and mental health.
‘Mental health’, unfortunately, is a term loaded with stigma. But just like physical health, mental health is a constant reality and something that should be monitored at all times. Good mental health means an employee is able to cope more easily with the day-to-day stresses of working life, however it is also that stress from work that can tip the balance and cause mental health problems. Stress, depression and anxiety are the most common mental health issues caused by work and a significant reason for sick leave in finance and accounting --in fact, evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
There is strong evidence to suggest that there is a link between good mental health and good work culture. Issues like excessive workloads, toxic colleagues, bullying, and harassment all impact an employee’s ability to function at full capacity. These issues can play in an employee’s mind after they have finished or left work, affecting sleep patterns, energy, attitude, and quality of life. According to mentalhealth.org, addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.
The Stevenson-Farmer review of mental health and employers found that in addition to the human costs of mental illness, the ‘economic costs to employers, directly to Government and to the economy as a whole are also far greater than we had anticipated’ (Stevenson and Farmer 2017).
The review commissioned new analysis from Deloitte on the costs to employers of mental health illness, which amounts to a cost per employee of between £1,205 and £1,560 per year – between £33 billion and £42 billion a year (Deloitte 2017). This is made up of:
Absenteeism cost: £8 billion
Presenteeism cost: £17 billion to £26 billion
Staff turnover: £8 billion
Under the Equality Act 2010, candidates are not obligated to disclose any mental health issues they may be susceptible to or have dealt with in the past during the recruitment process or during the duration of their employment. It is, therefore, a matter of good policy to set up mental health initiatives in the workplace that are completely accessible to all employees and don’t single anyone out.
Having a clear HR policy to address workplace bullying or harassment will help deal with and resolve the issue as quickly as possible, minimising the duration of the stressful situation and overall anxiety for the victim.
Where mental health is affected from the pressures of the job itself, having a supportive HR function will still help anyone suffering from stress or anxiety to feel like they have someone to talk to; whether to negotiate time off for sick leave, or to instigate a conversation with senior management about adjusting the workload. This can be circumvented by the next strategy, however.
Encouraging your staff to feel safe and comfortable discussing their workload and the pressures or the anxieties it may cause with their line managers will allow employees to be able to take the reins and control their own priorities. Encouraging them to propose solutions to their own stresses will help to solve the issue more effectively and add a level of confidence and empowerment to what might be a stressful and anxiety-riddled conversation. This can be done in person, via a call or a video meeting.
This can be particularly difficult in finance and accounting, particularly when deadlines are approaching, but encouraging your staff to take breaks and not work too much overtime will help their overall mental health. They won’t feel chained to their desks, and they’ll be able to leave the pressures and stresses of the office behind when they leave or finish work in the evening.
Feel free to get in touch if you are looking for tips to support your HR staff in improving and supporting mental health in the workplace.
With our database and deep networks within the finance community, we are also able to source high-calibre candidates to suit the specific needs of your business, ensuring you have the requisite talent to grow your operations.