Taking care of business

Workforce mental health

Business owners and managers know that employees and staff are the key to success, and keeping them happy and healthy is essential. Yet mental health in the workplace is a growing issue with around one in four people experiencing a mental health problem each year.

Increasing the well-being of your staff is not only good for people's mental health. It can be good for business too, increasing productivity by as much as 12%.

There are however now more people at work with mental health conditions than ever before, and around 15% of people working have symptoms of an existing mental health condition, according to Thriving at Work, an independent review of mental health and employers that was commissioned by Theresa May as Prime Minister.

For businesses and employers, this is more than a cause for concern. Mental health issues are the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, with an average cost per employee of £1,035 per year.

Despite the prevalence of mental health challenges, silence and embarrassment sometimes shroud the topic, with one jarring statistic showing that 95% of people who call in sick with stress state a different reason for their absence.

But mental ill-health doesn't mean that staying in work isn't possible. An individual can have a serious mental health problem but – with the right support – can still be thriving at work.

Start talking

There are easy-to-implement changes that can make a big difference in your workplace. According to the authors of Thriving at Work, the number of people leaving work with mental health problems could be reduced by 100,000.

First, we need to recognise that we all have mental health and can swing between thriving, struggling and being ill and possibly off work. As employers, we need to all develop and communicate a mental health at work plan. This was one of the key recommendations in Thriving at Work.

Though it is not always easy to talk about mental health problems, talking is a great way to start breaking down the stigma that can be associated with it. It can also help raise awareness and improve our understanding of it.

Work-life balance

Another key recommendation in Thriving at Work was to ensure that your staff have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development. Keeping active, eating and sleeping well, and drinking sensibly are all ways to stay balanced and keep minds and bodies feeling healthy.

At E.ON, we have made mental health awareness a priority, and we are committed to encouraging an open culture. We have started a range of initiatives backed up by policies and support tools to break down barriers and help each other recognise the signs of mental health challenges early on.

Last year, we attended the launch of the Mental Health at Work gateway, put together by mental health charity Mind and the Royal Foundation. Their free online training modules were developed specifically for small workplaces.

Another great resource is Time to Change, a growing movement aimed at shifting the way we think and act around mental health problems. It provides knowledge, experience and plenty of ideas for you to draw on, such as the Time to Change pledge, which E.ON became a founding member of in 2011.

By removing barriers and talking about mental health, we believe everyone can benefit from healthier minds. Not just you as an employer, but your employees and ultimately the customers they serve too.