THE CASE FOR ACTION
About the Topic
An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of strategies and polices specifically addressing mental health. Findings from numerous scientific studies demonstrate that workplace interventions aid in the prevention of common mental ill-health, as well as facilitating the recovery of employees diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety.
Before proceeding it is important to decide why psychological health, safety and wellbeing is important to your organisation. There are many reasons this could be the case including;
- It’s the right thing to do – leaders and managers have a social and corporate responsibility.
- It’s the law – leaders and workplaces are legally required to prevent harm to health and safety and not to discriminate in employment on the basis of mental health.
- It’s the smart thing to do – promoting mental health and preventing harm makes good business sense for a high performance, productivity, reputation etc.
It’s the Right Thing to Do – The Moral Argument
Mental illnesses have a large, negative affect on individuals, their families, their colleagues, and the broader community. Approximately one in four working adults experience a mental disorder each year. Almost half of all people will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime.
With the high prevalence of mental disorders. Its symptoms include problems that are;
- Emotional (for example irritability, becoming withdrawn, feeling exhausted)
- Cognitive (for example difficulties in concentrating and making decisions, negative thinking)
- Behavioural (becoming negligent, making errors, abusing alcohol or drugs).
Prolonged exposure to stress also affects the physical health of individuals. Physical effects associated with stress include heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances and various minor illnesses.
There is increased awareness that work is generally good for you, contributing positively to personal, financial and social need while long-term unemployment is harmful to physical and mental health. But, while it is clear that work is good for mental health, a negative working environment can be detrimental to physical and mental health.
Full-time employees are likely to be working more than any other single activity in their life (except maybe sleeping). Employment has more beneficial effects on mental health than unemployment. This makes the workplace an ideal place to create interventions to reduce the community impact of mental illnesses and help people realise their potential and create their best possible levels of wellbeing.
It’s the Law – The Legal Argument
In Europe, legislation exists that dictates how employers should address matters of health and safety. This typically extends to the management of psychological health and safety.
No matter how small your business, the law requires you to manage health and safety of all your employees. In fact you are personally legally responsible for the safety of yourself, your employees, and any other person that may be affected by your work activities.
The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work (Directive 89/391 EEC) adopted in 1989, and subsequent related Directives set out clearly what the responsibility of employers is regarding the implementation of health and safety procedures, and this includes the prevention of psychosocial risks and the prevention of harm to mental health and wellbeing. Under these directives employers are responsible for identifying hazards and minimizing the risks associated with them. The Framework Directive had to be transposed into national law of all EU member states.
It’s the Smart Thing to Do – The Financial Argument
Apart from the obvious legal and moral duties you have as an employer, a positive and proactive approach to health and safety management can minimise the potential for financial and/or reputational damage to your business. For the employer, there is a strong relationship between levels of staff wellbeing and performance. Taking a positive, proactive approach to
mental health at work can make good business sense.
An important element of achieving a healthy workplace is the development of strategies and polices specifically addressing mental health. More and more companies realise that the commitment of employees is crucial for the success of the organisation. There are a numerous financial reasons on why to invest in mental health of employees, such as:
- Reducing absenteeism and sick leave
- Increasing productivity by reducing presentism (poor performance due to being unwell while at work)
- Demonstrating your commitment to corporate social responsibility
- Reducing the likelihood of workplace accident
- Establishing a business as an attractive place to work, making it easier to attract and retain talent
A mentally unhealthy workforce has adverse economic consequences for business. For the organization the impact of psychosocial risks (even minor levels of depression) includes increased costs due to absence from work, turnover, reduced product or service quality, recruitment and training, workplace investigations and litigation, as well as damage to the