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Why tackling mental health is essential to business success

Published by: LifeWorks,

Today is World Mental Health Day – an initiative now in its second decade, designed to raise education and awareness around mental health issues and their impact on those whose lives are affected by them. However, despite the ongoing work done to address the stigmatization and remove the taboo around mental health in the workplace, its incidence remains all too high.

Stigmatisation of mental health in the workplace remains high.

Just last week, Business in the Community research revealed that over three quarters of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue and for 62% of employees, their work has been a contributing factor in mental ill health.

Impacts on business

Beyond the bearing on the individual, this worrying trend is also having a major impact on the effectiveness of businesses; indeed, between 2009 and 2013 the number of sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety increased by 24%.

What is less tangible but equally concerning for business leaders is the impact of “presenteeism” – staff ignoring the problems they’re suffering, and instead feeling compelled to plough on through the day. It’s ineffective for the business, and it’s harmful for the individual – so what’s to be done?

Employer responsibility

The majority of businesses have been slow to either introduce preventative strategies to keep employees happy and healthy or ensure that staff who do suffer from mental health problems have access to the right support and expertise. Equally important is the ability for employees to feel they can raise the issue. As an employer, your staff must all see this as part of their job, allowing you to build a workforce that feels valued, more productive and less stressed.

Management should create a culture in which employees feel they can raise the issue.

Responsibility for creating the culture where this is possible falls to senior management and team leaders. They all need to understand, buy into and commit to providing a positive, supportive culture for their staff. If they do this, they will reap the rewards.


Of course, it is impossible to completely eliminate mental health problems – but it’s the stigma that needs removing, not the condition. This is where HR must ensure it offers a network of support for employees, providing access to resources and external experts as required. HR also has a role in helping business leaders better understand issues around mental health in the workplace and recognize the tell-tale signs of a staff member who is struggling.

HR must offer a network of support, providing access to resources and experts as required.

To date, businesses have struggled to effectively tackle mental health problems. By and large they have adopted an approach that what they can’t see doesn’t exist. This clearly doesn’t wash, and it is time that all business, big and small, take measures to tackle the issue. If they don’t act, they’ll soon see the problem on their balance sheet.

Make your employees feel loved