How can businesses proactively face the problem of mental health at work?

On 10th October 2017, The World Health Organisation (WHO) launches its annual Mental Health Day, with the focus this year on mental health in the workplace.

A rapidly growing problem, this is not something that “happens to other people”.  According to the WHO, 300 million people suffer globally from depression, making it the world’s leading cause of disability.  260 million people live with anxiety disorders and many with both.  It’s now estimated that the cost to global business is in the region of US$1 trillion due to loss of productivity.

With stating that work is the leading cause of stress in the UK, it’s time for business to shake up and take a proactive approach to tackling these alarming statistics.

Why is it happening?

So have we just become a flaky race? Put quite simply, NO!

Never have we worked faster, under more pressure or faced more uncertainty.   As mentioned in our previous blog on “A modern problem of stress” our environment has changed more in the last 50 years than it evolved over the previous 2000 years. This places inevitable pressure on us all, as we struggle to keep up with the pace and find new strategies to cope with modern working practices and pressures – yet often employee investment focuses on developing the competences needed to increase productivity, rather than on preventing productivity problems.  We are no longer equipped to deal with the world around us and few of us are receiving help to do so.

What’s the impact?

Aside from the massive humanitarian problem and cost to our health services, stress at work is clearly costing the business bottom line in lost productivity, through absenteeism, demotivated staff and is a spiraling problem.   Often people will turn to other things to help them cope such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine and sugar.  Additionally, they can end up with a poor diet and no time for physical exercise, all amounting to a detrimental effect on their physical and mental wellbeing, thus aggravating the problem and impacting on productivity further.   As the CEO of Mind stated “work related mental health problems are an issue too important for business to ignore”

What can businesses do about stress at work?

For organisations that want to step up and take responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to this problem, we recommend a proactive approach for prevention and management of stress:

  1. Actively encourage a culture where employees feel they can talk about stress and have a structure in place to deal with signs of stress from the early stages onwards.
  2. Create a workspace environment that promotes wellbeing and team communication to promote creativity and productivity, and at the same time reduce conflict.
  3. Increase awareness within the organisation of the signs of stress and have systems in place for employees to recognise their own triggers for stress and how to deal with them.

It’s worth noting that stress doesn’t have to be all bad.  A little stress can take us out of our comfort zone to challenge and develop us.  The key is to get the right balance and to support employees in finding the right level of stress and using it to work for them, not against them.

If you’d like any help in implementing a proactive approach to stress in the workplace, please contact: (UK) (S. Africa)


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