The hidden pandemic: 5 things every employer needs to know about mental health at work

Debbie Byers Posted on September 22, 2020 in Blog

There is nothing like a pandemic for focusing attention on health issues.

The Covid-19 virus has dominated our lives for months with more than 30 million cases of infection worldwide (as of September 21, 2020). Yet it is scarcely mentioned that 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression, just one of many mental disorders.

Nobody is playing down the seriousness of Covid-19. But that is exactly what we do workplace mental health problems. That’s why the following five insights might help us tackle the hidden pandemic and improve the health, happiness and wealth of millions.

1: Poor mental health is serious and widespread

Stress and unhappiness at work tend to be trivialised, but they seriously affect our health, our relationships and our life expectancy. People with poor mental health die, on average, 20 years earlier than the rest of the population. One in three avoidable deaths in the UK involve people suffering from poor mental health. We need to remember these hard facts.

2: Poor mental health is costing businesses billions

Just as Covid-19 is also having a devastating economic impact, so too does poor workplace mental health. The global economy loses around $1 trillion every year in productivity as a result of depression and anxiety.

More than one in four Americans report feeling “super-stressed” at work while one in six British workers are struggling to cope with stress, anxiety or depression at any one time.

Mental health problems are the leading cause of absence from the workplace, yet we shy away from them. The vast majority of organisations have put nothing in place to support those employees affected.

3: The stigma around mental health is toxic

Much of this avoidable damage is because mental health remains a taboo subject. Even if it isn’t quite as stigmatised as it was a generation ago, we are still engaged in a conspiracy of denial.

Many more people are happier discussing their sexual or financial problems than their mental health issues. Indeed, 95% of those taking time off from work because of stress admit to giving a different reason to their boss rather than admit they are struggling to cope.

4: Pioneering companies are transforming attitudes and lives

One unexpected benefit of Covid-19, has been to put employee well-being at the top of the organisational agenda. Forward thinking companies are taking positive action to improve employee mental health because what’s good for the individual is also good for the organisation.
PwC, for example, has enjoyed incredible results with its Green Light to Talk campaign, which aims to destigmatise mental health. Elsewhere, 30 major organisations – from Barclays and the Royal Mail to John Lewis – have signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment, which aims to create working environments in which people can thrive. These and similar movements such as the Lord Mayor of London’s This Is Me, are starting to break down barriers and transform lives.

5: You can be the solution, not the problem

The vital first step towards transforming workplace mental health is to break the taboo by speaking openly about it and normalising it.

Passionate and effective speakers are a great catalyst for starting these important but difficult conversations that can change lives and businesses.

At Speaker Buzz, we are committed to being part of that positive change. Our expert speakers are passionate about helping organisations and individuals to make a genuine difference.

Former broadcaster and model, Gail Porter, bravely shares her own tragic experiences of mental health guiding organisations on how they can support those experiencing such problems.

JoJo Fraser, the inspirational author, is committed to smashing the enduring stigma around mental health at work while Alister Gray champions conscious capitalism: His mindful ethos of looking after your workforce and doing good has influenced companies from Google and Nike to Dropbox.

Former Scotland rugby captain John Barclay can talk about the importance of mental health in his career in a physical sport, while adventurer Mollie Hughes knows all about the importance of maintaining mental strength during her extreme expeditions.

These are real, desirable and achievable objectives. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are all susceptible to mental health problems but by talking about it and acting positively in the workplace, we can make a huge difference.

To learn more about how Speaker Buzz can support your organisation in making a real difference, contact us

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