• Polly Lord

Mental Health And Employment

Last Friday, 10th October, was World Mental Health Day. Its aim is to raise awareness and support of those suffering with mental health problems. In tandem with this, during the Liberal Democrats’ party conference last week, leader Nick Clegg announced its party’s commitment to provide waiting time standards for mental health conditions’ treatment.

1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health problems at some point in their lives. An increasing amount of those conditions are caused, or exacerbated, by workplace conditions.

As a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group of Wellbeing Economics pointed out, UK employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. Coupled with the insecurity of low pay and volatile job market, official statistics reveal a worrying increase in anxiety, stress and other mental health issues. We are, it seems, in a wellbeing crisis.

Wellbeing and mental health do not necessary tie neatly hand in hand. However, some mental health issues, particularly those triggered by stressful external situations and difficult relationships, can be moderated by an increase awareness of wellbeing in the workplace. This is turn will have productivity gains, let alone sidestep the £100 billion cost to the UK that sickness absence brings. As Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin shows, it is an asset to the employer to focus on its employees’ mental health. He has recently incorporated the US idea of unlimited holiday into his employment policy to some of his employees. He is also well-known for inviting hardworking and excelling staff to his Caribbean island, along with holding an annual summer party for Virgin employees at his country house. He focuses on employees enjoying the work they do, and yet still manages to make Virgin one of the most successful companies in the world.

Mental health is a difficult challenge for society, let alone employers. However, by increasing a focus on wellbeing and evaluating traditional models of employment relationships, both employers and employees will have an increased satisfaction in their working lives.

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