April is Stress Awareness Month in the UK
A few weeks ago a survey of 1300 workers by ADP about stress in the workplace was released. Several blogs trumpeted the headline figures including the words
“A third of UK workers (31 percent) say their employer has little or no interest in their mental health, despite the fact that a fifth (20 percent) are stressed out on a daily basis, and for almost a third (33 percent) the issue is so bad that they’re considering looking for a new role.”
Without getting into debates about survey size this prompted us at Calm People to address the issue that is implied but not really addressed…. Whose responsibility is stress?
The employers perspective
The CIPD in their document Work-related stress what the law says states the employers responsibilities as summarised below.
To put it another way the website Concious.co.uk states the following – “Dealing with stress is a difficult issue for employers. In addition to specific duties under health and safety legislation, they owe their employees a common law duty to take reasonable care to safeguard their health and safety, and this includes a duty to control stress levels at work. Employers are only in breach of their duty if they have failed to take reasonable steps in the circumstances to prevent the stress.|”
It is accepted that a certain amount of stress creates a buzz that can be productive and healthy. It is the employers duty to make sure their working environment is not unduly stressful.
There are other really good reasons why an employer may wish to pay attention to the subject of stress
Stress is a mental health issue and more and more attention is being paid to this area. Our mental health, just like our physical health impacts every area of our life, not just work. This means that when an employer pays attention to our mental health they are really saying I want you to be healthy in every part of your life, not just when you are at work.
An employer supporting the mental health of its employees is not trying to make them an ever efficient cog in an ever increasingly efficient machine. They are saying that they care on a human level about the health of the people that commit to them and are prepared to invest in it.
Cynics will always look for what is in it for the employer. Benefits such as increased loyalty, engagement( the holy grail) and productivity are just a few things that can be supported by initiatives around mental health. There are many other initiatives that can have the same impact. An employer can pay for a works night out, they can pay a performance bonus but in the long run helping and supporting their employees in developing the skills to support their own mental health is priceless and is a genuine investment at a human level.
“An employer can pay for a works night out, they can pay a performance bonus but in the long run helping and supporting their employees in developing the skills to support their own mental health is priceless and is a genuine investment at a human level.”
The employees perspective
This doesn’t get so much attention paid to it. The headlines and article are mainly about employees being the victims but here at Calm People we believe individuals have to take responsibility for the state of their mental health and they get the opportunity to reap the benefits.
Dealing with mental illness is not easy so the more I can do to stop having to deal with full-blown depression the better. It’s in my interest to be mentally healthy.
The average amount of time taken off by an employee signed off with stress is 23 days. Not many employers will support that at full pay and thus it is the employee pay packet that suffers. Even if the basic pay is maintained performance related elements for that period will not be. Again in it is in my interest to remain mentally healthy.
If my mental health suffers then that of may family also suffers. My children see their role model being unhealthy. My wife takes on additional responsibilities that I can no longer carry out, not to mention the worry she gets. No one wins when I am mentally unhealthy.
“ No one wins when I am mentally unhealthy.”
When I am mentally healthy I am productive, I am committed at work, enjoying life and whole lot better to be around. It’s in my interest and the interest of those I love for me to be mentally healthy.
“When I am mentally healthy I am productive, I am committed at work, enjoying life and a whole lot better to be around. It’s in my interest and the interest of those I love for me to be mentally healthy.”
Therefore it is my responsibility.
So we are back to that partnership idea that employment is really about. The employer seeks to make sure the environment is healthy. The employee takes responsibility for their mental and physical health.
What do the leading employers do?
The employers that are working with Calm People will have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) in place. They are cost effective but tend only to get used in extreme cases….maybe when it is too late.
They also engage with programmes such as Mental Health First Responders (Calm People) or Mental Health First Aid. These are programmes that deliver the basic skills to key people in the organisation to spot mental health issues in team members and direct them to get support.
Finally the next layer is equipping employees with the skills to take care of their own emotional resilience. Making sure we all have the opportunity to take care of ourselves.We may accept responsibility but not have the skills.
So, in summary, there are benefits on both sides to supporting the employees’ mental health and there are responsibilities on both sides.
If you would like to know more about how Calm People can support your organisation email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat.