The Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPD) carries out an annual report into health and absence rates in the UK. This year’s report has found an increase in common mental health conditions reported to organisations with levels having risen from 41% in 2016 to 55% in 2018. Being mentally ill is also cited as being the main cause of being off Work long-term for over half of reported absences while 50% of long-term absences are caused by stress, another mental rather than physical factor.

Workload accounted for 60% of the stated highest cause of workplace stress, almost double the second most prevalent factor (management style 32%) reported by survey participants.

There are also indications that technology is partially responsible for poorer mental wellbeing at work due to employees feeling they cannot disconnect at the end of the working day.

Improving awareness

There are indications that movement is being made in the right direction. The most common effort to improve workplace mental health is by offering a ‘phased return to work and/or other reasonable adjustments’, followed by ‘increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce’. Less common initiatives are the offering of training to management to help support those with poor mental health; staff training in techniques to boost resilience; and the provision of mental health first aid training.

The interest in initiatives like these has been seen in other areas such as some schools in England having the support of specially trained Health Mentors aiming to help improve the wellbeing of both staff and pupils. Indeed, today’s report by the CIPD finds that public sector employers generally take a more proactive stance than private sector employers on providing ways aimed at improving their employees’ mental health at work.

Promoting positive mental wellbeing

While positive steps are being taken, there is a need in the workplace to ensure preventative measures, and management of, psychological problems are as strong as possible. The CIPD reports that: “Organisations have a responsibility to manage stress and mental health at work, making sure employees are aware of the services and support available to them and how to access them.”

This echoes the call from Paul Farmer, the CEO of Mental Health charity Mind, for every workplace to implement six, universal “core standards” in promoting positive mental wellbeing amongst their staff. This was said in response to a 2017 government-commissioned report titled ‘Thriving at Work’.

Only if actions follow these reports will improvements be seen.